Conservation Projects

Koh Tao Reef Monitoring Programme

Reef Health Assessments

Coral reefs include some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. In recent years, coral reefs have shown significant levels of stress as a result of increased anthropogenic (human) activity. The Roctopus ecoTrust monitor trends in the health and biodiversity of local reef ecosystems by gathering quantitative and qualitative information from a range of different organisms and abiotic (environmental) factors within a particular area. Information gathered from this project helps to identify factors associated with reef health, as well as the threats that coral reefs surrounding Koh Tao are subject to. This helps to inform effective management strategies in areas that require restoration, protection and conservation.

Reef Fish Monitoring

cross the globe, fish living on coral reefs have become increasingly more exposed to several threats including overfishing, pollution and habitat loss from climate change and ocean acidification. Significant damage caused to a reef often has serious consequences on the ability for many fish species to survive there. Biodiversity of reef fish is often a good measure of reef health and can be used to assess how the health of a reef is changing over time. The reef fish monitoring programme established by the Roctopus ecoTrust aims to provide information on the health status of reefs around Koh Tao by monitoring trends in the biodiversity of reef fish, as well as population trends for key reef species. This programme also aims to identify specific threats that local reefs are subject to, and the effect these are having on local reef fish communities.

Koh Tao Marine Research Project
Koh Tao Coral Restoration Project

Coral Restoration

Corals play an essential role in the provisioning of habitats to other marine organisms that are found living in reef ecosystems. In the last 100 years, corals have been exposed to numerous threats, many of which have been associated with increased anthropogenic activity. As a result, areas all across the globe are seeing a mass reduction in coral cover. Coral nurseries established by the Roctopus ecoTrust are used for the active restoration of coral reefs. Fragments that are found living in hostile environments (most commonly when lying in the sand) are collected and transferred to temporary artificial structures which are less stressful than the environment they were previously living in. At a later date, fragments are then transferred back onto the natural reef or transplanted onto artificial reef substrates where they are able to form new colonies, and ultimately new reefs.

Coral Watch

Coral Watch is a citizen science project established by the University of Queensland that aims to gather information on the bleaching status of corals all around the world. The Roctopus ecoTrust conduct ongoing Coral Watch surveys around the island, submitting data to a global database and providing valuable information on the extend of bleaching of corals in the Gulf of Thailand.

Koh Tao Coral Watch
Koh Tao Monitoring Project

Water Quality Monitoring

For corals to thrive, environmental conditions must be just right. Environments that promote survival and growth of corals are essential for maintaining diverse and healthy reef ecosystems. Corals are strongly affected by changes that occur in their surrounding environment. Several abiotic (non-living) factors such as temperature, pH or nutrient load can influence a coral’s ability to survive, grow and reproduce, ultimately affecting coral fitness. The Roctopus ecoTrust continuously monitor the water quality of reefs around the island, helping to identify areas where corals may be stressed or challenged due to suboptimal environmental conditions.

Beach Cleans

Marine debris is often carried by winds and ocean currents to shallow bays and coves, where it commonly settles on nearby reefs. This can cause significant damage to coral structures and other reef associated organisms. The Roctopus ecoTrust organise weekly beach cleans in order to minimise levels of trash that may be carried onto local reefs. Roctopus contribute data to the Clean Swell project established by Ocean Conservancy, a science-based organisation that seeks solutions for a healthy ocean and wildlife that depends on it.

Koh Tao Beach Clean
Koh Tao Mooring Line

Mooring Line Establishment

The calcium carbonate structures produced by hard coral may be easily broken from mechanical damage. This may be caused naturally by storms, but also occurs as a result of human impacts e.g. divers colliding with corals or the use of heavy anchors in areas with significant coral cover. Reefs which are heavily dived or where anchors are commonly used may incur an overall reduction in coral cover with continued disturbance to an area. The ecoTrust have worked alongside the Thai government’s Department of Marine & Coastal Resources (DMCR) in establishing and maintaining mooring lines in order to prevent the use of anchors in areas where diving and fishing practices are common.

Dive Against Debris

It is estimated that between 5-10 million tonnes of trash enter our oceans each year, the majority of which is plastic. Some types of plastic take hundreds of years to decompose. During this time, they have the potential to cause significant damage to coral reefs and the organisms that live there. The Roctopus ecoTrust conduct regular underwater reef cleans around the island, removing trash items that are likely to cause damage to local reef ecosystems. Roctopus are active members of the non-profit marine conservation organisation Project AWARE, and contribute data to their Dive Against Debris program. This program aims to prevent the accumulation of trash in marine environments by working with volunteer divers all across the world.

Koh Tao Restoration Project
Marine Conservation Koh Tao

Net Removal & Deep Site Monitoring

Fishing nets that are lost or discarded by fishing boats become a significant entanglement risk for reef fish living nearby. Nets that settle on reefs can also cause large scale damage to coral structures and other benthic organisms (organisms living on reef substrates). The Roctopus ecoTrust continuously monitor deeper areas around the perimeter of submerged pinnacles. These are areas where nets may have been trawled over reef substrates, causing nets to become entangled. Regular monitoring ensures the Roctopus ecoTrust team can deliver a rapid response in freeing entangled marine organisms and conducting net removals where required.

Crown of Thorns Research

During their adult life stages, Crown of Thorns starfish (COTs) are corallivores and predate on the live polyps of hard corals. If the density of COTs increases within a particular area, the mortality of corals through COT predation may exceed the rate at which new corals are able to recruit in the same area. This may lead to a significant loss of hard corals within a reef ecosystem. In the last 100 years, COTs outbreaks have increased both in severity and frequency throughout the world and these outbreaks have commonly been associated with anthropogenic influences. Research projects established by the Roctopus ecoTrust aim to monitor the population density of COTs, and identify areas where outbreak populations may form.  Research is also conducted on the habitat and dietary preferences of COTs in order to improve our understanding of the ecological effects of high COT densities around Koh Tao.

Crown of Thorns Research and Monitoring
Marine Research Koh Tao

Pelagic Fish Research

Apex predator fish play an essential role in controlling populations of other organisms within an ecosystem and are important for maintaining biodiversity across the reef. Apex predators are often pelagic, as they spend most of their lives in the open ocean, they are an easy catch for trawling and long line fishing. Pelagic fish, including several apex predator species, are often high in value and are therefore heavily targeted by the fishing industry.
The Roctopus ecoTrust conduct ongoing monitoring of pelagic fish communities around deep submerged pinnacles. This project aims to identify and monitor populations trends for a number of pelagic species in order to help inform relevant authorities of declining fish stocks. This project also aims to examine the potential effects that overfishing of apex predators and other commercially valuable species may have on reef fish communities living near isolated pinnacle reefs.
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