Adaptive monitoring of coral health at Scott Reef where data exhibit nonlinear and disturbed trends over time

Pubudu Thilan Abeysiri Wickrama Liyanaarachchige, Rebecca Fisher, Helen Thompson, Patricia Menendez, James Gilmour, James M. McGree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Time series data are often observed in ecological monitoring. Frequently, such data exhibit nonlinear trends over time potentially due to complex relationships between observed and auxiliary variables, and there may also be sudden declines over time due to major disturbances. This poses substantial challenges for modeling such data and also for adaptive monitoring. To address this, we propose methods for finding adaptive designs for monitoring in such settings. This work is motivated by a monitoring program that has been established at Scott Reef; a coral reef off the Western coast of Australia. Data collected for monitoring the health of Scott Reef are considered, and semiparametric and interrupted time series modeling approaches are adopted to describe how these data vary over time. New methods are then proposed that enable adaptive monitoring designs to be found based on such modeling approaches. These methods are then applied to find future monitoring designs at Scott Reef where it was found that future information gain is expected to be similar across a variety of different sites, suggesting that no particular location needs to be prioritized at Scott Reef for the next monitoring phase. In addition, it was found that omitting some sampling sites/reef locations was possible without substantial loss in expected information gain, depending upon the disturbances that were observed. The resulting adaptive designs are used to form recommendations for future monitoring in this region, and for reefs where changes in the current monitoring practices are being sought. As the methods used and developed throughout this study are generic in nature, this research has the potential to improve ecological monitoring more broadly where complex data are being collected over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9233
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • ecological monitoring
  • interrupted time series regression
  • mass bleaching events
  • semiparametric regression
  • sudden declines in trends

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