Articles

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The crown-of-thorns seastar, Acanthaster planci, is a predator of corals and along with cyclones is the major cause of coral mortality on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) 1 . The GBR is currently experiencing the fourth wave of crown-of-thorns infestations since the 1960’s.

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The last decade in north Queensland has seen a striking contrast of summers of below median rainfall (2002-2006) and ‘big wets’ (2007-2012). The run of relatively dry summers, followed by the years of high summer rainfall created perfect conditions for researchers to study the effects of river runoff on water clarity in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon.

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It will be no surprise to anyone who has visited the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) that both visitors and the local Queenslanders love the place. The region is famous for its wildlife, biodiversity and natural beauty. Exactly how much we love it, and what in particular we love about it, is being studied by researchers at JCU. They found safety and being able to access quality infrastructures to be the most important factors, no matter who you are, or where you come from.

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Corals are the back bones of coral reef ecosystems. They produce calcium carbonate skeletons that build coral reef framework. Reef fishes and many other inhabitants depend upon corals for shelter and food. Coral populations are dynamic, cycling through phases of disturbance and recovery. Many types of disturbance kill corals including cyclones, Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) outbreaks, bleaching and disease.

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Corals have an interesting life cycle and spend part of their lives floating around in the sea and part of their lives stuck to the reef. Adult corals are actually colonies made up of many organisms called polyps.
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Preserving biodiversity is an essential component of most conservation and environmental management strategies but what actually is biodiversity and why is it important? Put simply, biodiversity is the incredible variety of life that surrounds us and the most fundamentally important reason for its preservation is that critical reductions in biodiversity can lead to the degradation of ecosystems and reduced quality of life for all inhabitants, including humans.

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Pesticides from agricultural sources have been detected throughout the year in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (RRMMP). Australia has strict standards and monitoring to limit the amount of pesticides allowed in food products. However, the fate and impact on the environment of toxic chemicals applied to crops is less well known.

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It’s a classic conservation planning problem. There are hundreds of islands within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area with ecological values of national and international significance. Serious threats to those values are posed by invasive plants and animals, and there are limited people and money to manage the threats. How should the conservation dollar be spent?

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The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) (Acanthaster planci) feeds almost exclusively on hard corals and is endemic to coral reef ecosystems throughout the Indo-Pacific (Birkeland 1990). These large starfish are covered in sharp toxic spines and once grown have few natural predators. Over their lifetime they can produce 100’s of millions of eggs that have the highest fertilisation rate recorded for any spawning marine species. The pelagic larvae produced from spawning can float in the water column for weeks before settlement and can easily travel large distances between reefs.

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The Winds of Zenadth Cultural Festival takes place every two years on Thursday Island. The festival is a community event that brings people together and showcases the strength and diversity of the Torres Strait people’s culture and customs.

The eAtlas information stall at the festival in September 2014, provided an opportunity for the community to try out the mapping and visualisation tools and to get familiar with the look and feel of the site. The most important message for the community was that the Torres Strait eAtlas is an internet site that is free for everyone to use.

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Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are widespread in northern Australia. Pigs are on our farm lands, in the bush, on the beach and in the world heritage areas of the Wet Tropics rainforest. CSIRO scientists who are monitoring and modelling pig populations in Queensland have one message: Protect what you love.

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The coral reef islands on the southern GBR are a great place to start a family. But after the nesting season is over many of the animals that breed on the islands, swim or fly far away. Tracking devices on turtles and seabirds that nest in the region around Heron Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are recording the journeys of the animals as they travel across the ocean.

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The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is currently experiencing a 4th wave of crown-of-thorns seastar (Acanthaster planci) infestations since the 1960’s. The seastars are spreading rapidly with reefs from Lizard Island to Cairns suffering massive coral mortality. The race is on again to learn more about the biology of COTS and fund some smart science to develop strategies that will miminise the coral loss caused by the voracious coral predator.
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Raine Island, a 27.5 hectare cay situated on a detached reef and located in the far northern Great Barrier Reef is, along with the adjacent Moulter Cay, the focus of approximately 90% of all nesting effort of the Northern Great Barrier Reef (NGBR) green turtle genetic stock. The small sand cay is the largest rookery in the world for the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) with upwards of 15 000 females having been recorded attempting to nest at the one time along the approximately 1.8km of beach.
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Raine Island, a 27.5 hectare cay situated on a detached reef and located in the far northern Great Barrier Reef is, along with the adjacent Moulter Cay, the focus of approximately 90% of all nesting effort of the Northern Great Barrier Reef (NGBR) green turtle genetic stock (Limpus 2008).
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Within a funding structure such as NERP TE, 'governance' is often described within the narrow framework of program roles and responsibilities. However there are benefits of considering the broader system of governance that such programs sit in, and in ensuring that each phase within the program cycle contributes to good governance outcomes. This broader idea of governance represents "the way society gets things done".

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On the Great Barrier Reef sharks are readily identified as fearsome predators. In ecological theory, species that are at the top of the food chain are commonly described as apex predators. However generalising all sharks as apex predators is misleading and may lead to poor outcomes in the context of managing coral reefs and sharks for conservation.

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During trips to Torres Strait in collaboration with TSRA in 2013 and 2014 coral skeletons were collected under a permit issued by the Commonwealth of Australia under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1998. The permit specified the collection of small pieces of the coral skeleton for identification purposes.

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The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has great economic importance as well as immense aesthetic value, contributing an estimated $5.8 billion to the Australian economy, principally through tourism, and commercial and recreational fisheries. Inscription on the World Heritage List recognises the area’s global significance and entails regular reporting on its status. Coral reefs are always changing through natural processes such as recruitment, growth, mortality and disturbance by storms. Information about natural variability of populations is essential for informed management.

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Seagrass meadows in Torres Strait are abundant and widespread. Seagrass/algal beds have been rated as the third most valuable ecosystem globally for ecosystem services. Their value is due to their diverse roles within marine coastal ecosystems. Like other plants seagrass harvest the sun’s energy and thus are a source of primary productivity; energy that can be passed through the marine food chain. Seagrass is a major food source for dugong, a marine mammal of high importance culturally and as food throughout the region.

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