Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program (RRMMP) - Overview

Riverine flood plumes affecting the Great Barrier Reef lagoon

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 pollutants such 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.

Coral reefs and seagrass meadows in the coastal and inshore zones of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are located in shallow waters and generally experience higher water turbidity and nutrient availability than ecosystems further offshore. Areas adjacent to the developed coast of the central and southern GBR are exposed to land runoff carrying excess amounts of fine sediments, nutrients and pesticides that have increased several-fold since European settlement; this increase has been implicated in the decline of some coral reefs and seagrass meadows.

Riverine flood plumes affecting the Great Barrier Reef lagoon

Concern about these negative effects of land runoff triggered the formulation of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan) for catchments adjacent to the GBR World Heritage Area by the Australian and Queensland governments in 2003. The Reef Plan was revised and updated in 2009 and has two primary goals:

  • immediate goal - to halt and reverse the decline in quality of water entering the Reef by 2013;
  • long-term goal - to ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the Reef from adjacent catchments has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Reef Plan actions also include the establishment of water quality monitoring programs extending from the Paddock to the Reef, to assess the effectiveness of the Reef Plan's implementation, which is now predominantly funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Rescue initiative. Sustained long-term monitoring of the coastal and inshore GBR lagoon is fundamental to determine the status of marine water quality and of long-term trends in response to changes in land use and to Reef Plan and Reef Rescue actions.

Monitoring of the water quality and condition of the inshore coral reefs of the GBR has commenced in 2005 as part of the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program (MMP). This program is a collaborative effort between a consortium of monitoring providers (Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS); James Cook University (JCU); CSIRO; Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) and National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicologyat the University of Queensland (EnTox)), in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), and co-funded by the Australian Government Caring for our Country Program and the providers.

The coast around Dungeness, North Queensland, Australia

The MMP consists of two core monitoring components:

1. Inshore water quality monitoring:

  • a. Monitoring the spatial extent and water quality of flood plumes;
  • b. Monitoring the spatial and temporal patterns of inshore water quality by direct water sampling, deployed instruments and remote sensing
  • c. Monitoring the spatial and temporal patterns of pesticides using passive samplers

2. Inshore biological monitoring

  • a.Monitoring the spatial and temporal patterns of the condition of intertidal seagrass meadows
  • b. Monitoring the spatial and temporal patterns of inshore coral reef condition
  • Further details and all reports can be can be found on the MMP website of the GBRMPA:

Further reading

- Scientific consensus statement on water quality in the Great Barrier Reef (2008) and

- Synthesis of evidence to support the Scientific Consensus Statement on Water Quality in the Great Barrier Reef(2008). Prepared by Jon Brodie, Jim Binney, Katharina Fabricius, Iain Gordon, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Heather Hunter, Peter O’Reagain, Richard Pearson, Mick Quirk, Peter Thorburn, Jane Waterhouse, Ian Webster and Scott Wilkinson.

Available at:

1. Google Earth version 5.2 has a bug that prevents it from displaying the plots when the KMZ is loaded from a path with a space in it. Until a work around is found open the KMZ from a path such as C:\tmp\

File marine-monitoring-sites-2010.kmz77 KB