2.1 Coral reef survey
2.2 Land-based survey: Questionnaires
The field study in Pulau Payar was carried out from April 1996 to July 1996. There were two components to the study; a survey of the surrounding coral reefs which are popular dive sites, and a land-based survey which involved distributing questionnaires and conducting interviews with tourists, divers, tour operators and dive operators.
The Line Intercept Transect (LIT) method (English et al, 1994) was used to assess the sessile benthic community of the reefs. The community is characterised using lifeform categories which provide a morphological description of the reef community. The LIT is used to estimate the cover of a lifeform or group of lifeforms within a specified area. (Gates, 1979) by calculating the fraction of the length of the line that is intercepted by that lifeform. Two general assumptions are made: the size of the lifeform is small relative to the length of the line; and the length of the line is small relative to the reef of interest (English et al, 1994). The measure of cover, expressed as a percentage, is then considered to be an unbiased estimate of the proportion of the total area covered by that lifeform.
At each dive site surveyed, 50 m transect lines were laid at a depth of 10 m using fibreglass measuring tapes. Where there was little or no coral at 10 m, transects were then laid at 6-8 metres depth, and these differences noted. Transects were repeated for all the reefs (except for Pulau Segantang) at least twice. Once the transect was laid, the observer moved slowly along the transect, recording on data sheets the life forms encountered under the tape. At each point where the benthic lifeform changed, the transition point in centimetres and the code of the life form was recorded. The intercept of each lifeform encountered under the transect is the difference between the transitions points recorded for each lifeform. To ensure standardisation of the data, the same observer recorded data for each individual transect, at all sites and during repeat surveys.
Other site variables were also noted, such as the depth range, visibility, currents, the general reef profile, attractions for divers and the extent of damage of the particular reef surveyed. The position of each reef surveyed was taken using a GPS (Global Positioning System).
While the LIT provides information on spatial pattern, it must be noted that this method, within the time constraints of the study period of 4 months, cannot provide detailed information on temporal change. Ideally, monitoring should be repeated each year, or at least every 2 years, and should be complemented with belt transects and/or photo-quadrat techniques to provide a more precise picture of temporal change. To ensure accuracy, the tape should remain close to the substratum (0-15 cm) at all times, and should be securely attached to prevent excessive movement. This however, was not always possible as at some sites the reef morphology was too uneven to allow close contact with the tape. At times, currents were very strong making data collection difficult. Despite these constraints, the LIT method enables reliable and efficient sampling of quantitative percent cover data.
A survey of the tourists and tour operators that come to the Pulau Payar Marine Park was conducted by means of questionnaires and interviews. The questionnaires used are presented in Appendix 2. Japanese and Mandarin translations of the tourist questionnaire were also used as the majority of tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park are Japanese and Taiwanese. The main objective of this component of the study was to garner the opinions of the various parties concerned, as well as to gather some statistics for analytical purposes. In addition, it is hoped that the problems faced by all concerned will be highlighted, and action taken to remedy them.
In conjunction with the coral reef surveys, questionnaires and interviews targeting dive operators and divers were also conducted (Appendix 2). These investigations highlighted the perceptions of Pulau Payar Marine Park's reef users with particular reference to reef condition, diver satisfaction and marine conservation awareness.
It must be borne in mind that the results for the land-based survey are based on the responses of the respondents, and may therefore be subjective. It would also have been ideal to carry out questionnaires everyday to ensure a continuum of data, but this was not possible as not all the time was spent in the field due to other project commitments. A 10% sample size was obtained for each day that questionnaires were done (that is 10% of the total number of visitors for that day were surveyed), in order to ensure representative sampling. Despite the constraints present, the questionnaires were still useful to highlight certain aspects of carrying capacity, as well as the various problems faced by all parties including tour and dive operators, tourists and divers.