Articles

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This page shows the extent of the flood plumes of the Fitzroy, Burnett, Mary and Brisbane Rivers caused by the extensive flooding that occurred in Queensland in December 2010 and January 2011. These flood plume maps were produced as part of the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program - Assessment of terrestrial run-off entering the Great Barrier Reef project by James Cook University (contact Michelle Devlin). They were based on visual inspection of NASA MODIS satellite images and were created for days where the cloud cover was low enough to see the boundary of the plumes.

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Coastal areas around the world are under increasing pressure by human population growth, intensifying land use and urban and industrial development. As a result, increased loads of suspended sediment, nutrients and pollutantssuch as pesticides and other chemicals enter coastal waters and can lead to a decline in estuarine and coastal marine water quality, manifested as eutrophication and increased water turbidity.
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Extending over 2,000 km along the coast of Queensland, Australia and comprising some 2,900 individual coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef [GBR] is the largest coral reef ecosystem to have existed in recent times. The northern most point of the GBR extends beyond Australian waters towards Papua New Guinea, whilst its southern most point terminates just north of Fraser Island off the south coast of Queensland. The width of the GBR varies along its length, extending from the low water mark on the Queensland coast past the edge of the continental shelf, and encompasses an entire area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi), approximately the same size as Italy or Japan.
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Corals provide essential habitat structure and energy in coral reef systems, facilitating the existence of numerous reef associated species. Indo-Pacific coral reefs are home to over 600 species of hard corals (also called stony corals or scleractinian corals), and 4000-5000 species of reef fishes (Veron 2000, Lieske and Myers 2001). There are strong mutual dependencies between the reef-building corals and reef-inhabiting fishes, with many fish species depending on corals for food and habitat, while corals depend on the grazing by certain fishes for reproductive success. Even the spread of coral diseases may be mitigated by fishes. This article summarises what is known about these intricate mutual relationships.

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The Social and Economic Long Term Monitoring Programme (SELTMP) for the Great Barrier Reef is the result of a massive regional level initiative funded by the National Environment Programme (NERP), CSIRO Wealth from Oceans, James Cook University and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. We have worked with strategic and technical advisors across state and federal government as well as with traditional owners, private industry, community, non-government organisations and from within the research fraternity.

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Corals and many other reef invertebrates such as giants clams, gorgonians, sponges and hydroids live in a symbiotic relationship with dinoflagellates, also referred to as "zooxanthellae", that provide them with an important part of their daily energy requirement through photosynthesis. The genotype of dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) plays an important role in determining the environmental tolerance range of their host. The genus Symbiodinium consists of nine broad genetic groups or clades that are genetically highly distinct (clades A-I).

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This study investigated the influence of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning on fish abundance of the Great Barrier Reef. The fish populations of pairs of shoals, one in a Green zone (closed to fishing) and the other in a Blue (open to all fishing) were compared using Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS).

These BRUVS revealed a diverse fauna of fish, sharks, rays and sea snakes, including species prized by fishers, taken as bycatch, or not vulnerable to hook and line fishing.

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This article outlines the use of two R packages, geoMap and geo, developed to analyse data and generate outputs for the e-atlas and ningaloo-atlas. geoMap generates a variety of plots that can be used for exploratory analysis, presentations and publication-quality maps. geo is an extensive set of spatial modelling techniques that produces fitted surfaces that can be added to publication graphics, or added to the e-atlas as layers, or used as KMLs.

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This atlas of 186 PDF maps shows the Habitat quality of the urbanized and agricultural regions of Mission Beach, Queensland based on aerial photography taken 6 months after cyclone Larry.
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The need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role that protected areas play in the lives of communities is as important as developing a greater understanding of the scientific aspects of protected areas. The aim here was to monitor the attitudes, perceptions, knowledge and use of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) by residents of the Wet Tropics bioregion. The research builds on previous community attitude surveys that have been undertaken for the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA).

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Middle Reef has been exposed to frequent disturbances since surveys began in 1993. Coral cover and coral diversity has been remarkably resilient to high temperatures, freshwater and high sediment loads. Middle Reef is more resilient to bleaching than other reefs around Magnetic Island and the corals are adapted to warm average temperatures. Sediments have high levels of organic carbon and nitrogen. Wave damage from cyclones is a minor threat. However rainfall associated with cyclones or summer low pressure systems can result in exposure to low salinities and long periods of turbidity. Recent outbreaks of atrematous necrosis on Magnetic Island suggest coral disease could be a new risk to Middle Reef. Assessments of the status of Middle Reef in 2010 were postitive (Thompson et al, 2010), based on observed levels of community attributes against estimates of expected change derived from a coral growth model (Thompson and Dolman 2010).

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This study forms part of MTSRF Project 2.5i.2c and examines variations in coding regions (genes) of coral DNA and their relative frequency as distributed along a thermal gradient on the Great Barrier Reef. The genes were also investigated for their known or possible roles as an indicator of environmental stress, with particular emphasis on measuring thermal tolerance.

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Researchers from the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University (funded by the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility), are working to identify climate refugia that could promote adaptation to climate change in rainforest species of Australia’s Wet Tropics. Major priorities are to identify existing refugia not currently included in the protected area network, along with sites where land degradation could potentially be reversed to strengthen refugia.

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The AIMS Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP), initiated in 1993, was designed to track changes in populations of key groups of organisms, particularly crown-of-thorns starfish, corals and reef fishes, on appropriate spatial scales over the length and breadth of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA).

The specific objectives of the LTMP are:

  • To monitor the status and changes in distribution and abundance of reef biota on a large scale.
  • To provide environmental managers with a context for assessing impacts of human activities within the GBR Marine Park and with a basis for managing the GBR for ecologically sustainable use.
  • To examine the effects of rezoning the GBR Marine Park on biodiversity.

This report (Status Report no. 8) presents a synthesis of LTMP and RAP data collected up to the 2007 field season. Results from 2006 and 2007 have not previously been reported.

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The aims of this work (MTSRF Project 1.1.3b) were to identify the role of light and water temperature as drivers of change in seagrass meadows of the northern Great Barrier Reef. Experimental approaches as well as field investigations were undertaken.

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The goal of this project (MTSRF Project 2.5i.4) was to develop quantitative modeling tools that help to explain the risks posed to the linked GBR social-ecological system due to the effects of climate change.

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One of the key ways to ensure the sustainability of a tourism destination is to measure and build its competitiveness. Success is achieved when the destination is able to achieve the highest level of well-being for its residents on a sustainable basis (Ritchie and Crouch 2000). Destinations that do not evaluate themselves and their competitors will often encounter difficulties in the long run as markets change and the demand for destination goods and services evolves under the influence of technology and changing consumer preferences.

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This annual report forms part of a series of reports presented by James Cook University on reef tourism in the Great Barrier Reef. It is part of a research program being conducted under the Australian Government’s Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF). The research described here falls under MTSRF’s research program to identify sustainable use and management of marine resources of the Great Barrier Reef and specifically the analysis of tourism use and impact on the Great Barrier Reef for managing sustainable tourism.

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As one of Australia’s iconic tourism attractions and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is an important economic, social and natural resource for Queensland’s Tropical North. However, the long-term prognosis for the health of the reef and by implication, the industries dependent on it, is not positive. So far much attention has focussed on the health and resilience of the reef ecosystem, as a foundation for a resilient tourism industry.

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Marketed internationally as an iconic tourism experience, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) faces a range of issues similar to those faced by coral reefs in other parts of the world. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GRBMPA), the management body responsible for the reef, 1.9 million tourists visit the reef annually, using marine tour operators that offer a wide range of tour products. Management of the tourism industry is based on a zoning system that requires natural and social science input.

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