Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs)
Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) is a useful method for gathering data pertaining to ecologically significant biological components of a reef habitat over small spatial scales. Because the method provides a quick “snapshot” of major reef biota during a single dive or snorkel survey, it is particularly useful in assessing remote areas that are only rarely visited and where little time can be spent.
A key facet of an REA is that it includes specialists in each of four categories:
Each specialist conducts survey protocols that are specific to their particular area of expertise and that are designed to address the specific questions being asked by the investigator. Although each specialist focuses on his/her biotic category, all of the surveys are conducted along a set of transect lines that are laid out by the first team to enter the water (i.e., the fish team). In this way, all of the biotic observations are referenced with regard to the same spatial coordinates, producing a more integrated biological description of a reef community than would any single, specialized survey.
REAs, with their high level of taxonomic resolution over small spatial scales, are a good complement to towed diver surveys, which are conducted over larger spatial scales but with a lower level of taxonomic resolution.