Monitoring Coral Bleaching in the Field
Links to Global Methodologies

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch (CRW) program derives its online products and tools from satellite and modeled data. At this time, CRW does not have the resources to conduct in-water bleaching surveys. Instead, we rely on reports of coral reef conditions from partners and collaborators around the world to ground-truth our bleaching thermal stress measurements.

We are often asked how to measure coral bleaching in the field. Below are some links to protocols for measuring bleaching and several community-based programs that collate data from professional and volunteer monitors.

These links do not imply an endorsement of any particular protocol, so please consider which program will work best in your area. The Nature Conservancy has advice on selecting a monitoring protocol in their Reef Resilience Toolkit.

Protocols for monitoring coral bleaching

ReefBase Global Bleaching Protocol
WWF Indonesia, WWF International, The Great Barrier Reef Authority, and the WorldFish Center (ReefBase) developed a protocol for monitoring coral bleaching.

AGRRA Bleaching Method
Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment protocol for monitoring ecological events, including coral bleaching.

IUCN Resilience Assessment
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) rapid assessment protocol for coral reefs, focusing on coral bleaching and thermal stress.

Reef Check
A global network of volunteer teams, trained and led by scientists, that regularly monitor and report on reef health using a standard method.

AIMS Long-Term Monitoring Program
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) conducts reef health surveys on the Great Barrier Reef, including bleaching monitoring.

An inexpensive, simple, non-invasive method for the monitoring of coral bleaching, and assessment of coral health.

Some examples of community-based monitoring programs

GBRMPA's Current Conditions on the Reef
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has a successful partnership between reef managers and the community to monitor large-scale coral reef environmental conditions and health.

Florida Keys Coral Bleaching Early Warning Network (BleachWatch)
Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary provide a summary of NOAA Coral Reef Watch's near real-time satellite monitoring and modeled bleaching outlook products for the Florida Keys region, as well as in-situ temperature and wind data from Mote Marine Lab and in-water reports of bleaching conditions from trained Florida Keys observers.

ECOMAR Belize Coral Watch Program
The Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO or ECOMAR) charitable organization in Belize enlists the help of a network of marine guides, visitors, members, and protected area managers to provide observations of reef conditions and coral bleaching.

Eyes of the Reef - Hawaii Network
The Eyes of the Reef (EOR) Network engages community members to monitor and report coral disease and bleaching; marine invasive species; crown-of-thorn sea star (COTS) outbreaks; and fish diseases on their local reefs in Hawaii.

Western Indian Ocean Coral Bleaching Alerts
Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) produces bi-weekly summary reports during the bleaching season.

Philippines Coral Bleaching Watch
A network of coastal resource managers compiles bleaching reports from around the Philippines.