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Data analysis and interpretation are part of the evaluation aspect of adaptive management, the process for conserving, protecting, and, where appropriate, restoring lands, waters and other resources in a protected area. Adaptive management is often defined as a system of management practices based upon clearly identified outcomes, where monitoring evaluates whether management actions are achieving desired results (objectives).  Adaptive management is a decision process that promotes flexible decision making that can be adjusted in the face of uncertainties as outcomes from management actions and other events become better understood through data analysis and interpretation.

Adaptive management accounts for the fact that complete knowledge about fish, wildlife, plants, habitats, and the ecological processes supporting them may be lacking. The role of natural variability contributing to ecological resilience also is recognized as an important principle of adaptive management.  It is not a “trial and error” process, but rather emphasizes learning while doing based upon available scientific information and best professional judgment considering site-specific biotic and abiotic factors in protected areas.  Adaptive management results in effective monitoring and evaluation of a protected area management plan.

For many protected area practitioners, data analysis and interpretation can be a daunting task. Often, resources and training are provided on the practical aspects of monitoring without much guidance on how to analyse and interpret the data for adaptive management. However, there is little point in collecting data unless you have plans to use that data for communication and/or adaptive management purposes and it is therefore very important to acquire some skills in this area.

Below are some key resources that can be used by practitioners prior to designing monitoring programs right through to the process of adaptive management. For those who have time and are truly invested in understanding data analysis, Houk’s (2010) guidebook is highly recommended. Beneath the data analysis guidebooks are a short list of references for statistical analysis.

262 Voyages Beneath the Sea: a global assessment of macro- and megafaunal biodiversity and research effort at deep-sea hydrothermal vents

For over 40 years, hydrothermal vents and the communities that thrive on them have been a source of profound discovery for deep-sea ecologists. These ecosystems are found throughout the world on active plate margins as well as other geologically active features.

A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation

Understanding the scale, location and nature conservation values of the lands over which Indigenous Peoples exercise traditional rights is central to implementation of several global conservation and climate agreements.

Adaptive Management

U.S. Department of the Interior.  2009.  Adaptive Management:  The U.S. Department of the Interior Technical Guide.

Biological effects 26 years after simulated deep-sea mining

The potential for imminent abyssal polymetallic nodule exploitation has raised considerable scientifc attention.

Changing geo‐ecological functions of coral reefs in the Anthropocene

The ecology of many coral reefs has changed markedly over recent decades in response to various combinations of local and global stressors.

Climate Change, Coral Loss, and the Curious Case of the Parrotfish Paradigm: Why Don’t Marine Protected Areas Improve Reef Resilience?

Scientists have advocated for local interventions, such as creating marine protected areas and implementing fishery restrictions, as ways to mitigate local stressors to limit the effects of climate change on reef-building corals.

Comparative assessment of pelagic sampling methods used in marine monitoring

The aim of the present report is to provide a comparative assessment of commonly used pelagic sampling methods.

Compendium of guidance for capturing, managing and using biodiversity-related data and information

This compendium of guidance provides details of information sources for capturing, managing, using, and sharing data, all in the context of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Coral reef ecosystem services in the Anthropocene

Coral reefs underpin a range of ecosystem goods and services that contribute to the well‐being of millions of people. However, tropical coral reefs in the Anthropocene are likely to be functionally different from reefs in the past.

CoReMo Coral Reef Monitoring Data Entry System 2 v3.6.1

Quod, JP., Salvat, B.; Bissery, C., Terrasson, S., Caugant, G., Lacouture, P., Raude, M. 2010. CoReMo Coral Reef Monitoring Data Entry System 2 v3.6.1. ARVAM Oceanology

Deep reefs of the Great Barrier Reef offer limited thermal refuge during mass coral bleaching

Our rapidly warming climate is threatening coral reefs as thermal anomalies trigger mass coral bleaching events. Deep (or “mesophotic”) coral reefs are hypothesised to act as major ecological refuges from mass bleaching, but empirical assessments are limited.


The deep sea — usually defined as the realm below 200 metres — is a world of extremes. Temperatures near the sea bed in many places hover near 0 °C, there is next to no light, and pressures can exceed 1,000 bars, equivalent to having a couple of elephants standing on your big toe.

Designing Field Studies for Biodiversity Conservation

Feinsinger, P.  2001.  Designing Field Studies for Biodiversity Conservation. Island Press.

Developing a framework for the efficient design and management of large scale marine protected areas

This study identifies the importance of: acquiring robust baseline data, being fully protected (no-take), using ecosystembased management, community inclusion, and of adopting an ecologically connected network approach.

Field Note - Discovery of a recovering climax Acropora community in Kanton Lagoon in the remote Phoenix Islands Protected Area

An expedition in 2002 to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the Republic of Kiribati documented an extensive and delicate community of staghorn and tabular Acropora colonies...

Field Note - Silent killer: black reefs in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is in a naturally ironpoor region in the equatorial central Pacific.

FISHERIES – Effects of marine protected areas on local fisheries: evidence from empirical studies

Marine fisheries throughout the world are in serious decline due to overharvesting (National Research Council, 2001), and management for sustainable fisheries requires effective tactics for limiting exploitation rates.

Global Human Footprint on the Linkage between Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in Reef Fishes

Difficulties in scaling up theoretical and experimental results have raised controversy over the consequences of biodiversity loss for the functioning of natural ecosystems.

Global trends in protected area connectivity from 2010 to 2018

Connectivity of protected areas (PAs) is needed to ensure the long-term persistence of biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery. The Convention on Biological Diversity agreed in 2010 to have 17% of land covered by wellconnected PA systems by 2020 (Aichi Target 11).

Gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains

Our global analysis of nearly 1,800 tropical reefs reveals how the intensity of human impacts in the surrounding seascape, measured as a function of human population size and accessibility to reefs (“gravity”), diminishes the effectiveness of marine reserves at sustaining reef fish biomass and th

Guidelines For Undertaking Rapid Biodiversity Assessments In Terrestrial And Marine Environments In The Pacific

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) presents these guidelines for undertaking rapid biodiversity assessments in its Pacific island member countries and territories: Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. These assessments are referred to as BIORAPs.

How is your MPA Doing?

Pomeroy, R.S., Parks, J.E., Watson, L. M. 2004. How is your MPA Doing? A Guidebook of Natural and Social Indicators for Evaluating Marine Protected Area Management Effectiveness.  IUCN Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Human-crocodile conflict in Solomon Islands

In 2017, following growing public concerns about saltwater crocodile attacks on people, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM), the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and WorldFish conducted a nationwide survey to collect detailed i

Improving Local Capacity for Coral Reef Monitoring Data Interpretation. A Guidebook with Step-by-Step Exercises Using Regional Datasets to Improve Local Capacity for Data Interpretation.

Houk, P.  2010. Improving Local Capacity for Coral Reef Monitoring Data Interpretation. A Guidebook with Step-by-Step Exercises Using Regional Datasets to Improve Local Capacity for Data Interpretation. Pacific Marine Resources Institute, Saipan, FSM.

Instruction Manual. A Guide to Reef Check Monitoring

Hodgson, G., Hill, J., Kiene, W., Maun, L., Mihaly, J., Liebeler, J., Shuman, C. and Torres, R. 2006. Instruction Manual.  A Guide to Reef Check Monitoring . Reef Check Foundation, Pacific Palisades, California, USA

Integrating Three-Dimensional Benthic Habitat Characterization Techniques into Ecological Monitoring of Coral Reefs

Long-term ecological monitoring of reef fish populations often requires the simultaneous collection of data on benthic habitats in order to account for the effects of these variables on fish assemblage structure.

Large-scale, multidirectional larval connectivity among coral reef fish populations in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Larval dispersal is the key process by which populations of most marine fishes and invertebrates are connected and replenished.

Low energy expenditure and resting behaviour of humpback whale mother-calf pairs highlights conservation importance of sheltered breeding areas

Understanding the behaviour of humpback whale mother-calf pairs and the acoustic environment on their breeding grounds is fundamental to assessing the biological and ecological requirements needed to ensure a successful migration and survival of calves.

Mainstreaming biodiversity: A review of national strategies

Biodiversity is suffering dramatic declines across the globe, threatening the ability of ecosystems to provide the services on which humanity depends. Mainstreaming biodiversity into the plans, strategies and policies of different economic sectors is key to reversing these declines.

Managing the middle: A shift in conservation priorities based on the global human modification gradient

An increasing number of international initiatives aim to reconcile development with conservation. Crucial to successful implementation of these initiatives is a comprehensive understanding of the current ecological condition of landscapes and their spatial distributions.

Marine protected areas increase resilience among coral reef communities

With marine biodiversity declining globally at accelerating rates, maximising the effectiveness of conservation has become a key goal for local, national and international regulators.

Methods for Ecological Monitoring of Coral Reefs. A Resource for Managers.

Wilkinson, C., Hill, J. 2004. Methods for Ecological Monitoring of Coral Reefs. A Resource for Managers. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia and Reef Check, Los Angeles, USA.  117pp.

Monitoring Coral Reef Marine Protected Areas: Version 1. A Practical Guide on how Monitoring can Support Effective Management of MPAs

Wilkinson,C., Green, A.,  Almany, J., Dionne, S. 2003. Monitoring Coral Reef Marine Protected Areas:  Version 1.

Observations of a rapid decline in invasive macroalgal cover linked to green turtle grazing in a Hawaiian marine reserve*

The persistent, non-native invasive alga Gracilaria salicornia has dominated the protected waters surrounding Moku o Loʻe, Kāneʻohe Bay since its introduction in 1978; however, a sudden decline in abundance (75%) occurred within a 30-day survey period.

Ocean acidification and interactive stressors - from challenges to actions

The ocean has been experiencing substantial changes in marine physics, chemistry and biology including ocean acidification, rising seawater temperature, ocean deoxygenation and sea level rise.

Protected area connectivity: Shortfalls in global targets and country-level priorities

Connectivity of protected areas (PAs) is crucial for meeting their conservation goals.

Protected areas in the world’s ecoregions: How well connected are they?

Protected areas (PAs) are the main instrument for biodiversity conservation, which has triggered the development of numerous indicators and assessments on their coverage, performance and efficiency.


This Toolkit offers a suite of simple tools for collecting the sound scientific data needed for the conservation and sustainable management of shark and ray populations.


Cohen, J. 1988. Statistical Power Analysis for the behavioural sciences (2nd Edition). Hillsdale. New Jersey: L.

Report On The 2016 Funafuti Community-Based Ridge-To-Reef (R2R) - Rapid Biodiversity Assessment of the Conservation Status of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) In Tuvalu

This report presents the results of the 2016 Funafuti Community-Based Ridge-to-Reef (R2R) Rapid Biodiversity Assessment (BIORAP) of biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES),

Risk-sensitive planning for conserving coral reefs under rapid climate change

Coral reef ecosystems are seriously threatened by changing conditions in the ocean. Although many factors are implicated, climate change has emerged as a dominant and
rapidly growing threat.

Setting ecological expectations for adaptive management of marine protected areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being implemented worldwide, yet there are few cases where managers make specific predictions of the response of previously harvested populations to MPA implementation.

Status and Trends of Coral Reefs of the Pacific

This report of 220 pages written by nearly 90 authors clearly presents the summation of an enormous amount of data and information on 19 of the 23 nations and states of the Pacific and outlines both the problems and stresses on these thousands of reefs, and the potential that these reefs will pro

The meaning of the term ‘function’ in ecology: A coral reef perspective

The inherent complexity of high‐diversity systems can make them particularly difficult to understand.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands - State of Environment Report 2016

This report updates the 1992 State of Environment report with the latest findings from the Marshall Islands. Environmental reporting is defined as a requirement for RMI in the ‘Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination (OEPPC) Act 2003’.

The three screen doors: Can marine “protected” areas be effective?

The great majority of marine protected areas (MPAs) fail to meet their management objectives. So MPAs can be effective conservation tools, we recommend two paradigm shifts, the first related to how they are located and the second related to how they are managed.

These are the days of lasers in the jungle

For tropical forest carbon to be commoditized, a consistent, globally verifiable system for reporting and monitoring carbon stocks and emissions must be achieved.

Towards reducing misrepresentation of national achievements in marine protected area targets

Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted 20 targets, known as the Aichi Targets, to benchmark progress towards protecting biodiversity.

United Nations List of Protected Areas 2018

The 2018 UN List provides up-to-date information on marine and terrestrial protected areas globally, and identifies those protected areas that have been the subject of management effectiveness evaluations.

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