NERP TE Project 1.1 Monitoring status and trends of coral reefs of the GBR (AIMS)

This project will continue a unique data set that documents long-term trends in coral reef communities of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). In 2012-13 and 2014-15 the LTMP will resurvey the ‘core’ reefs that have been surveyed since 1992. The AIMS LTMP has made intensive surveys of 47 ‘core’ reefs since 1992. The survey reefs are stratified by latitude and position across the GBR lagoon so as to give broad geographic coverage. Divers make intensive surveys on marked transects in one habitat on the selected reefs and the perimeters of the reefs are also surveyed by manta tow to assess densities of crown-of-thorns starfish and estimate reef-wide coral cover. Additional reefs are surveyed by manta tow to give broad-scale information on coral cover, bleaching, coral disease, etc., as well as crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks. Because of concern for their conservation status, reef sharks will also be counted during manta tow surveys. Outcomes of this project include: Updates on status and temporal trends in coral, fish and crown-of-thorns starfish populations on survey reefs, report on recovery rates and resilience of reefs after cyclones in 2009-2011, report on crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks on the GBR and publications on coral and fish dynamics in relation to management and environmental drivers.

Documenting patterns of reef decline and determining the factors influencing reef recovery is critical to the long-term persistence of the GBR. The surveys show that crown-of-thorns starfish and cyclones have been the leading causes of damage to coral reefs since the early 1990s when surveys began. These kinds of disturbances affect different areas of the GBRMP and their effects persist from years to decades, so long-term data sets are critical for understanding the ecology of coral reefs and for formulating policies to best protect them.

Point Of Contact
Sweatman, Hugh, Dr Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) h.sweatman@aims.gov.au

Publications / Data

Tags: marine