In 2015, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) conducted baseline surveys in 13 of the 14 Protected Area Network (PAN) sites to track changes in coral reef and seagrass habitats. This month, PICRC has begun the second round of monitoring in these sites, starting with Ngelukes Conservation Area.
In the next twelve months, PICRC will conduct surveys in, Medal Ngediull Conservation Area, Angaur State Conservation Zone, Ngeruangel Marine Reserve, Ngerumekaol Spawning Area, Ngermedellim Management Area, Ebiil Channel Conservation Area, Ngermasech Conservation Area, Ileyakl Beluu Conservation Area, Oreuaol Ibuchel Conservation Area, Ngemai Conservation Area, and Teluleu Conservation Area. Helen Reef is also a PAN site but because of its distance from the main island, it is logistically hard to get to. PICRC is hoping that Helen Reef can be surveyed in the coming year along with the rest of the PAN sites.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are a practical tool for conserving marine resources against human threats, but without proper management these areas may be irrelevant. In baseline surveys the lagoon MPA’s tended to have the lowest ecological scores of all habitats. While MPA’s on average increase fish biomass and species diversity in channels and the outer reef, land-based pollution is a significant driver to the poor ecological conditions of nearshore seagrass beds.
By conducting these surveys researchers are able to make recommendations to resource managers to reduce the amount of sedimentation flowing out of rivers and onto these important ecosystems. Additionally, sampling the PAN sites every two years will allow researchers to provide practical information to the PAN Office in order to develop a more resilient network of protected areas. [/restrict]