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This morning we retuned to Marsa Bareika armed with reels of tape measure and 30 metre lead lines ready for surveying. Myself, Katie and Jenny were doing our first survey with the lead line, a weighted piece of thin rope with markings at 10cm intervals. We laid it down at the edge of the reef plate, in straight line sections secured with elastic bands and then swam along it identifying any corals that fell under the line and noting the size of them. This is more difficult than it sounds, as we had to duck down to see the corals closely enough and measure them, but we got there in the end. I must have swallowed a fair amount of seawater in the process!
After a break, we were back in, but this time using a tape measure the boys had laid in the morning. As expected, there is a massive difference between the two methods, the lead line pretty much stays exactly where you put it, but the tape measure (even though it is secured) sways with the wave action and is generally a bit of a pain to work with. The only positive I can see for this method is that it is easier to get accurate measurements of the size of the corals.
Back at the centre, we analysed our data and found the true percentage of coral cover for the area. If I'd been asked yesterday to estimate how much coral was present, I may have said around 40-50% of the reef was covered with corals, but the transect data actually showed that only 20% at most, of the reef was covered in coral! I think when you see a reef with beautiful branching corals you assume that a large area of the rock is inhabited, but when you get close, you find that the core of the coral only takes up a small amount of the reef itself.
The evening's lecture was on fish survey methods, in preparation for tomorrow. We will be doing a survey of butterfly fish - time to get the book out and learn all 18 species!
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