NERP TE Project 2.3 Monitoring the health of Torres Strait coral reefs (AIMS)

This project will conduct a biodiversity assessment of coral communities on Torres Strait reefs to establish a baseline of coral condition and start a longer-term monitoring program of selected coral reefs in the region. The monitoring will look for changes in the condition of coral reefs and document factors that might contribute to changes incl COTS, disease, bleaching, temperature anomalies etc. As part of this project, an early warning system will be established for coral bleaching. This will give the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), Torres Strait communities, industry and other stakeholders, the ability to predict, prepare for and respond to coral bleaching. This project will: 1. Consult with TSRA and community to design a monitoring program for reefs of Torres Strait that addresses community needs and involves training TSRA LSMU rangers in field activities so that they can continue the reef monitoring program once this project is completed. During the project a biodiversity survey will be completed along with a baseline monitoring survey (Feb 2013) and a repeat monitoring survey (Feb-March 2014). 2. Establish an early warning system for coral bleaching based on the best-available knowledge of bleaching thresholds and a real-time environmental observing system for key parameters, including temperature and light. One real-time observing station will be located in the western Torres Strait and a second for the eastern TS subject to sufficent funds being available. 3. Establish a network of non real-time temperature loggers at up to 15 sites (two loggers/sites at different depths) at sites representative of the Torres Strait to capture the range of thermal regimes in the Torres Strait. LSMU rangers will be trained to exchange loggers on a 6-12 monthly basis (depending on site accessibility). 4. Provide regular updates on current coral reef conditions and summer forecasts for bleaching risk. These updates are a compilation of all available satellite and in-situ data together with forecasts from POAMA and NOAA bleaching risk models and will be provided to key stakeholders.

The reefs of Torres Strait are a key component of the lives and livelihoods of local communities. These reefs are threatened by a variety of local and global factors: notably coral bleaching, crown-of-thorns starfish, shipping and increasing levels of coral diseases. Compared to the Great Barrier Reef, little is known about the biodiversity or condition of reefs in the Torres Strait. Improved knowledge of Torres Strait coral reefs and monitoring their status and health will help identify problems and enable the TSRA to respond where necessary.

Principal Investigator
Berkelmans, Ray, Dr Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) R.Berkelmans@aims.gov.au
Co Investigator
Sweatman, Hugh, Dr Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) H.Sweatman@aims.gov.au

Publications / Data

Tags: marine