NERP TE Project 8.1 Monitoring the ecological effects of the Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan on mid- and outer-shelf reefs (AIMS)

The rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) in 2004 increased the number and extent of ‘no-take’ areas within the Park. This project surveys pairs of reefs, one in a ‘no-take’ or green zone and the other a similar reef where fishing is allowed (blue zone), in five regions of the GBRMP. Green and blue zones will be surveyed for the abundance and size of fishery species, particularly coral trout, as well as wider effects on coral reef communities. The results of reef surveys will be used to: 1. Track dynamics of populations of target fish species and by-catch species, such as reef sharks. 2. Track indirect effects of protection from fishing in terms of populations of non-target fish species. Since many exploited species are carnivorous, differences in their numbers may in turn affect the abundance of their prey (and potentially cause more extensive “trophic cascades”) as well as other community components that are related to resilience such as numbers of herbivorous fishes. 3. Track potential ecosystem effects of protection from fishing, such as increased coral recruitment and coral cover due to increased herbivorous fish numbers, and reduced incidence of coral disease (due to lower numbers of coral-feeding butterflyfishes inside no-take areas)

The rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) in 2004 increased the number and extent of ‘no-take’ areas within the Park, creating one of the largest networks of no-take zones in the world. While some effects of marine protected areas can be seen rapidly, there are also long term changes that may develop over 1-2 decades. Surveys of the matched pairs of reefs will enable the longer-term effects of zoning to be assessed eight and ten years after the new zoning plan came into force.

Principal Investigator
Sweatman, Hugh, Dr Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) h.sweatman@aims.gov.au

Publications / Data

Tags: marine