The recently completed Red List of Ecosystems assessment of WIO coral reefs is an example of how effective and successful collaboration between stakeholders can produce a novel and beneficial regional product.
For 5 years now, the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) coral reef network has been active and engaged, supported by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), and now by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) under the umbrella of the Nairobi Convention Coral Reef Task Force. The WIO coral reef Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) assessment is the latest regional scientific output produced as a result of the enhanced partnerships and collaborations within this scientific community, following the 2017 WIO GCRMN coral reef status report and 2016 post bleaching assessment.
It is the first coral reef RLE assessment to be carried out at this large regional scale (involving 9 countries) and the approach establishes a framework that can be applied to other coral reef regions. CORDIO East Africa led the assessment, with strategic involvement from a host of research partners from the WIO Coral Reef Network and internationally, as well as RLE experts, through two interactive workshops. These partnerships and collaborations, and the data shared as a result, were the cornerstone that enabled this assessment to be carried out. In total, 37 different institutions and researchers provided data, with 38 individuals involved through the workshops (full list).
Acquiring data can be a challenging endeavour, requiring painstaking dialogue to convince and incentivize data owners to contribute their valuable data. The regional initiatives undertaken over the past 5 years, have helped foster relationships, trust, and mechanisms between CORDIO and the reef network, which has helped streamline the provision of data for the RLE and other regional and global products. To date, data from hundreds of monitoring sites across the WIO has been contributed and compiled into these regional and multi-sourced coral reef datasets.
The WIO reef network has also participated strongly in the global Status of Coral Reefs of the World report, due to be released in 2020 – the first global report since 2008!
There is no doubt that enhanced collaboration among scientific institutions will continue to generate new analysis and research opportunities in the region. CORDIO will continue to work with the reef network to ensure that FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse) data principles are established and followed, with the end goal of having the datasets accessible for all researchers to use without restriction, in order enhance applied research, management and condition of coral reefs in the WIO!