RLS applies globally standardised visual census methods used and developed in over 20 years of shallow reef biodiversity research. These involve divers recording fish and invertebrate species seen along underwater transects using underwater paper and a pencil. Although not high-tech, when undertaken by experienced surveyors, these allow coverage of species not able to be recorded by other methods, and are cost and time-effective. Photographs are also taken of the coral or seaweed cover on each survey. The complete methods cover the majority of plants and animals > 2.5 cm which make up the life of rocky and coral reefs.

A key strength is that the exact same methods are applied by RLS divers wherever surveys are done in the world. Survey details are comparable between surveys undertaken in the centre of global fish diversity in the Coral Triangle and in the cold rocky reefs of the Arctic Circle, or between the heavily exploited Mediterranean and the most remote Pacific Islands.


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Data entry is completed via specially-designed Excel templates which contain species and site lists for specific regions. To download the latest data entry templates for Australian states, just click on the relevant state (note that WA has separate templates for north and south). Please contact us for templates for international locations.

Instructions on completing the data entry using these templates will be provided in the updated methods manual, but if you have any queries relating to data entry or would like feedback on your data, please contact us.
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