Biophysical data

What is data integration?

Global syntheses of variables representing the status and trends of coral reefs, like hard coral cover, are essential to inform large-scale policies (e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity) and understand drivers responsible for observed trends. The production of such quantitative syntheses relies on data acquired globally by different monitoring programs. These programs usually use different monitoring methods (e.g. photo-quadrat, line intercept transect), different units (e.g. meters, feet), and different data formats (e.g. long or large formats, CSV or Excel spreadsheets).
To produce global syntheses, it is necessary to go through a stage called data integration (Figure 1), which aims to build a unique homogeneous dataset (called “synthetic dataset”) from the multiple heterogeneous individual datasets shared by people in charge of monitoring programs.

Figure 1. Data integration in the production of GCRMN global syntheses
Figure 2. The four main steps of the data integration used for the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020. Steps are as follows: (1) data gathering, (2) individual data reformatting, (3) data grouping and taxonomic assignment, and (4) quality checks. The detailed workflow is presented in Wicquart et al, 2022.

What are the main steps of the data integration?

For the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020 report, a data integration workflow was developed, comprising four main steps (Figure 2). The first step, data gathering, consists in gathering a maximum of data acquired by different monitoring programs around the world, by contacting data custodians directly or by using other sources like databases and scientific literature. The second step, individual data reformatting, aims to standardise the multiple individual heterogeneous datasets obtained into homogeneous datasets, by carrying out a set of transformations (e.g. converting units, renaming variables). This allows for the following step, data grouping and taxonomic assignment, in which all individual datasets standardized are bound together into a unique one. The various names of categories (e.g. benthic categories or fish species names) used by different monitoring programs are then re-categorized. During the fourth and final step, a set of quality checks are applied to the synthetic dataset obtained, by searching for errors in the quantitative and qualitative variables.

How can you contribute?


Collecting a wide range of data for their integration into regional and global syntheses is key to improving data quality and their ability to inform international policies to protect coral reefs.


If you are in charge of monitoring benthic cover and/or fish abundance and biomass in coral reefs, and if you would like to contribute to the efforts of the GCRMN, you can contact below.


Please note that you can sign a Data Sharing Agreement with the GCRMN to define the use of your data for specific purposes (e.g. global GCRMN reports) or a given period (e.g. one year).


SocMon Data and Challenges

SocMon collects a total of 60 socioeconomic variables and 10 social vulnerability/adaptive capacity variables, which are measured through interviews, surveys, and secondary data. These variables include information on:

  • Demographics (age, gender, education, literacy, occupation, ethnicity, migration, etc.)
  • Community infrastructure and business development (level of community services and infrastructure, number and types of commercial businesses, industries, etc.)
  • Coastal and marine activities (types of uses, use patterns, levels and types of impact, values of ecosystem services and goods, tourist profiles, etc.)
  • Attitudes and perceptions (perceived resource conditions, perceived threats, compliance, enforcement, perceived coastal management problems and solutions, etc.)
  • Governance (management effectiveness, formal and informal rules and regulations, customs and traditions, stakeholder participation, etc.)
  • Risk and adaptive capacity (livelihoods, resource dependency, alternatives, social norms, etc.)

SocMon data have been collected in seven regions: Brazil, Caribbean, Central America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, and Western Indian Ocean. As of 2021, there have been 145 assessments completed in 42 countries, with more than 21,000 surveys and interviews collected. For more information on SocMon data, please refer to the SocMon Manual and Regional Guidelines available.

Moving forward, a common database is needed to store all the regional SocMon data collected, enhance capacities, foster collaboration and integration with all of GCRMN. However, SocMon needs long-term funding and support to sustain socioeconomic monitoring. A stronger partnership within GCRMN is also needed so that socioeconomic and biophysical data can be integrated for a holistic understanding of human-nature interactions and why trends are occurring.

Why SocMon is Important

The GCRMN started SocMon, a socioeconomic monitoring initiative, in 2000 for the purpose of advancing the global and regional understanding of human interactions with and dependence on coral reef resources. Because people are part of the ecosystem, this socioeconomic monitoring is meant to complement the biological and physical monitoring also being conducted by the GCRMN.

Socioeconomic monitoring is important in order to track how people use and depend on coral reefs, and to understand human impacts to coral ecosystems so that we can mitigate negative effects while promoting positive benefits. Socioeconomic monitoring provides essential data on the human dimensions of coral reefs that should not stand alone, but should be integrated into biophysical monitoring for a holistic understanding of the entire social-ecological system. It is not only critical to better understand the desired ecosystem services, drivers and pressures of change, state of the ecosystem, and appropriate responses, but also absolutely needed for successful coral reef conservation and effective management.