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Representation and complementarity of the long-term coral monitoring on the Great Barrier Reef

Cite this dataset

Mellin, Camille (2020). Representation and complementarity of the long-term coral monitoring on the Great Barrier Reef [Dataset]. Dryad.


Effective environmental management hinges on efficient and targeted monitoring, which in turn should adapt to increasing disturbance regimes that now characterize most ecosystems. Habitats and biodiversity of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) - the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem - are in declining condition, prompting a review of the effectiveness of existing coral monitoring programs. Applying a regional model of coral cover (i.e., the most widely used proxy for coral reef condition globally) within major benthic communities, we assess the representation and complementarity of existing long-term coral reef monitoring programs on the GBR. We show that existing monitoring has captured up to 45% of the environmental diversity on the GBR, while some geographic areas (including major hotspots of cyclone activity over the last 30 years) have remained unmonitored. Further, we identified complementary groups of reefs characterized by similar benthic community composition and similar coral cover trajectories since 1996. The mosaic of their distribution across the GBR reflects spatial variation in the cumulative impact of multiple acute disturbances, as well as spatial gradients in coral recovery potential. Representation and complementarity, in combination with other performance assessment criteria, can inform the cost-effective design and stratification of future surveys. Based on these results, we formulate recommendations to assist with the design of future long-term coral reef monitoring programs.


This dataset contains all high-resolution environmental and disturbance data as previously published in Matthews et al. (2019), as well as model outputs from the coral cover developed by Mellin et al. (2019). Both were re-analyzed in the present study to determine the representation and complementarity of the long-term coral monitoring, as described in the corresponding Ecological Applications manuscript.

Matthews S, Mellin C, MacNeil MA, Heron S, Puotinen ML, Pratchett M. High-resolution characterization of the abiotic environment and disturbances regimes on the Great Barrier Reef; 1985-2017. Ecology. 2019;100(2):e02574.

Mellin C, Matthews S, Anthony KRN, Brown SC, Caley MJ, Johns K, et al. Spatial resilience of the Great Barrier Reef under cumulative disturbance impacts. Global Change Biology. 2019;25(7):2431-45.

Usage notes

The RIMREP_ms.R script contains all analyses described in Mellin et al. 2020 Ecological Applications based on these data (also embedded in the RIMREP_ms.RData data file for convenience).


Australian Research Council, Award: DE140100701