Articles

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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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A plethora of recreational and commercial vessels operate within or transit Torres Strait. They unite the island communities and are a key transport mechanism for all kinds of goods and services. While shipping offers many benefits to the Torres Strait there are also associated risks, especially in event of an accident. These include threats to water quality, biodiversity and ecosystem health, physical or chemical damage from groundings and the introduction of pests.
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Dugong (Dugong dugon) are air-breathing marine mammals of global conservation significance, that can grow up to three metres, weigh up to 400kg and live for at least 70 years. Females reach sexual maturity at six years, and produce a calf only once every 2.5-5 years thereafter. Gestation period is 14 months, but calves suckle milk from their mothers for 18 months after birth. Dugongs’ main food source is seagrass, but they also eat invertebrates such as worms, sea squirts, and shellfish.
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The Torres Strait marine environment contains a relatively shallow (<20m) and highly productive stretch of seawater between the tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea. It straddles the juncture of the Indian Ocean (Arafura sea) with the Pacific Ocean (Coral Sea), resulting in complex patterns of influence from the two ocean systems, including complicated tides and currents, and high biodiversity. Torres Strait contains over 100 islands, and a diversity of marine habitats including coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and rich benthic garden communities.

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As part of Project 2.3 broadscale surveys and biodiversity assessments were conducted in the central island group and eastern island group within the Torres Strait region. Broadscale surveys were conducted by manta tow in February 2013 at Aureed Island Reef, Aukane Island Reef, Kabbikane Island Reef, Masig Island Reef, Mer Island Reef and Waier and Dauar Island Reef.
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Remote sensing is now recognised as a suitable and cost-effective technique for describing and quantifying aspects of coastal water quality of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). As a component of Paddock to Reef (link) reporting, water quality estimates retrieved from the MODIS Aqua satellite time series are compared to regionally-specific environmental values and objectives set in 2009 for each of five water bodies identified in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA).
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Coral reefs in the coastal and inshore zones of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are highly valued for recreation and local tourism, but their proximity to land exposes these reefs to land runoff carrying excess amounts of fine sediments and nutrients from developed catchments. The land management initiatives under the Australian and Queensland Government's Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2013 (Reef Plan) are key tools to improve the water quality entering the GBR and will, in the long-term, improve the environmental conditions for inshore coral reefs. Long-term monitoring of 32 inshore reefs (Figure 1) is part of the Reef Plan and is fundamental to determine the condition of inshore coral reefs and long-term trends related to Reef Plan’s actions on the catchment.

The condition of coral communities on inshore reefs of the GBR has been in a state of decline in recent years. The ninth MMP inshore coral reef survey completed in 2013 demonstrated the halting and reversal of these declines in all regions with the exception of the Fitzroy Region (Figure 2). Observed declines in coral community composition can be attributed to exposure to extreme weather events, including tropical cyclones and flooding in combination with responses to chronic environmental stress. The return to more moderate levels of runoff in 2013 and a lack of cyclone damage has allowed coral communities to begin to recover. Severe flooding in the Fitzroy Region again in 2013 has ensured the continued very poor condition of corals in that region.

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Seagrass are considered coastal canaries or coastal sentinels that can be monitored to detect human influences to coastal ecosystems. The inshore seagrass monitoring program was designed to detect improvements in water quality, resulting from changes in land management implemented through Reef Rescue. Data collection commenced in 1999 as part of the Seagrass-Watch program and in 2005 it was expanded and integrated as part of the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program
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As part of the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program (MMP), our project has been monitoring riverine flood plumes to assess concentrations and transport of major land-sourced pollutants to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon. The exposure of GBR reef and seagrass ecosystems to contaminants is estimated from the synthesis of: river discharge, water quality data sampled in inshore sites during flood conditions and the use of remote sensing technology to estimate flood plume extents and duration.

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TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge) is a research hub which has drawn together more than 70 of Australia's leading social, cultural, environmental and economic researchers. Our research focuses on the tropical north of Australia from Cape York to Broome.

The TRaCK Digital Atlas has been developed to provide a durable and centralised metadata repository for all of TRaCK’s significant intellectual output. All the mapping layers from the TRaCK Digital Atlas are now available in the e-Atlas mapping system.

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The transport of pesticides from land-based applications to the coastal waters of Queensland is considered a potential risk to the health and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. At sites near the Queensland coast pesticides and herbicides from agricultural sources have been detected throughout the year. The aim of this component of the MMP is to assess trends in the concentrations of specific herbicides and pesticides, primarily through routine monitoring at sites within 20km of the coast.
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As part of its commitment under Theme 5 of the MTSRF, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre publishes, or makes available, outputs (e.g. final technical or scientific reports, synthesis reports) from MTSRF-funded research projects nested within Research Themes 1-4.

This report provides an overview of the key findings of research conducted through the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) designed to improve our understanding of the linkages between catchment and reef processes, and how the quality of water from paddock, sub-catchment, catchment and marine systems can directly and indirectly influence the ecological functioning of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The research aimed to inform and facilitate management action and remediation to reduce, restore and increase resilience of the inshore GBR ecosystems. The research findings are also applicable elsewhere, particularly in tropical ecosystems, but many outcomes can be translated for broader application in catchment and marine ecosystem management.

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Access and download PowerPoint slides (in PDF) prepared by Jane Waterhouse, C2O Consulting, for presentation to government agencies involved in water quality management in the GBR.

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This article provides a brief review of the Coral Sea, and lists the main body of literature written about this important geographic region. The Coral Sea hosts a high diversity of geomorphic and oceanographic features, giving rise to numerous habitats and ecosystems, from abyssal seafloor over 4,000 m deep to vegetated coral cays above the ocean’s surface. This area hosts important habitats and migration corridors that sustain unique assemblages of organisms. Many of the Coral Sea’s ecosystems and ecological processes remain to be explored and described through scientific research.

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This report provides a synthesis of research on climate change and coastal science in the Torres Strait, and has been produced for the Australian Government’s Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF). It identifies and summarises work to date on reef evolution, hydrodynamics and sedimentary environments throughout the Torres Strait. It describes the island dynamics at Boigu, Saibai, Masig, Poruma, Warraber and Iama Islands. Numerous studies relating to climatic change are reviewed and the most relevant regional predictions for climate change in the Torres Strait are presented. The potential physical and ecological impacts of these changes in the Torres Strait are also identified. Adaptation and mitigation measures are suggested and their outcomes and consequences are evaluated. The key principles from sustainable land use plans on the islands are summarised and knowledge gaps in the fields of both coastal and climatic science are identified to guide future research.

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As part of its commitment under Theme 5 of the MTSRF, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre publishes, or makes available, outputs (e.g. final technical or scientific reports, synthesis reports) from MTSRF-funded research projects nested within Research Themes 1-4.

Researchers funded through the Australian Government’s Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) have worked closely with Torres Strait communities to improve our understanding of both the vulnerability of Torres Strait islands to climate change, and their adaptation capacity.

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As part of its commitment under Theme 5 of the MTSRF, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre publishes, or makes available, outputs (e.g. final technical or scientific reports, synthesis reports) from MTSRF-funded research projects nested within Research Themes 1-4.

In response to the needs of managers of the Great Barrier Reef, a key focus area of the Australian Government's Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) has been the development of thresholds of pollutants of concern in freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems. The outcomes of this research are summarised in this report, starting with an overview of new knowledge of the impacts of degraded water quality, and outlining how this work has been translated into threshold values and, ultimately in some cases, management guidelines for the GBR.

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As part of its commitment under Theme 5 of the MTSRF, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre publishes, or makes available, outputs (e.g. final technical or scientific reports, synthesis reports) from MTSRF-funded research projects nested within Research Themes 1-4.

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a diverse ecosystem, which is bounded on its western side by a large number of large and small catchments. Protecting GBR ecosystems and the quality of the water they rely upon has become a major priority for resource managers and the community as a whole. Water quality and ecosystem health monitoring is needed to assess current status, identify existing and emerging problems, evaluate the consequences of various anthropogenic land and water use practices, devise improved practices and assess the effectiveness of management measures.

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As part of its commitment under Theme 5 of the MTSRF, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre publishes, or makes available, outputs (e.g. final technical or scientific reports, synthesis reports) from MTSRF-funded research projects nested within Research Themes 1-4.

In the Wet Tropics of Queensland, tropical rainforest covered an estimated 965,000 ha prior to European settlement of the area during the 19th and 20th centuries. Subsequent human impacts resulted in a reduction in the area of rainforest to approximately 750,000 ha.

Here, Tng and others explore the rates of landscape change and landscape conditions associated with rainforest expansion in the Wet Tropics World Heritage region of northeastern Queensland. They assess change in rainforest in a 270 square kilometre study area within the Wet Tropics Bioregion, and ask to what extent rates of rainforest change were similar for particular time periods and mediated by climatic and landscape conditions.

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Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast near Mission Beach on the night of the 2nd Febrary 2011. This page shows satellite images (from NASA's MODIS satellites) of the disturbance to the Great Barrier Reef, damage to the vegetation in Mission beach and Cardwell area and flood plumes along the North Queensland coast. 

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