This dataset summarises intertidal benthic surveys of Kai and Gariar Reefs (Orman Reefs, Torres Strait) in November 2018
into 3 GIS shapefiles. (1) The site shapefile describes (a) seagrass presence/absence and (b) species composition at 124
sites. (2) The meadow shapefile describes seagrass communities for the two reef-top meadows. (3) The interpolation shapefile
describes variation in seagrass biomass across sites for the two reef-top meadows.
This project is part of ongoing long-term monitoring of intertidal reef-top seagrass in Torres Strait, and follows on from
a baseline survey of Orman Reefs in September 2017. It describes seagrasses at two of the largest reefs in the Orman Reef
complex – Kai (Koey Maza) and Gariar Reefs. This monitoring provides essential information to the TSRA, Australian and Queensland
governments for dugong and turtle management plans, complimenting dugong and turtle research studies in the region.
The sampling methods used to study, describe and monitors seagrass meadows were developed by the TropWATER Seagrass Group
and tailored to the location and habitat surveyed; these are described in detail in the relevant publications (https://research.jcu.edu.au/tropwater).
Sites were surveyed by helicopter. At each site latitude and longitude was recorded by GPS. Sediment type was recorded.
2 Seagrass metrics
At each site observers estimated the percent cover of seagrass, then for three quadrats within each site, ranked seagrass
biomass and estimated the percent contribution of each species to that biomass.
Helicopter was used for the intertidal surveys following TropWATER’s methods to assess areas at high risk from shipping
accidents in Torres Strait (Carter et al. 2013). At each site the helicopter comes into a low hover and seagrass was ranked
and species composition estimated from three 0.25 m2 quadrats placed randomly within a 10m2 circular area.
Seagrass above-ground biomass was determined using the “visual estimates of biomass” technique (Mellors 1991) using trained
observers. This involves ranking seagrass biomass while referring to a series of quadrat photographs of similar seagrass
habitats for which the above-ground biomass has been previously measured. Three separate biomass scales are used: low biomass,
high biomass, and Enhalus biomass. The percent contribution of each seagrass species to total above-ground biomass within
each quadrat is also recorded. At the completion of sampling each observer ranks a series of calibration quadrats. A linear
regression is then calculated for the relationship between the observer ranks and the harvested values. This regression is
used to calibrate above-ground biomass estimates for all ranks made by that observer during the survey. Biomass ranks are
then converted to above-ground biomass in grams dry weight per square metre (g DW m-2).
3 Benthic macro-invertebrates
At each site a visual estimate of benthic macro-invertebrate (BMI) percent cover was recorded each site according to four
broad taxonomic groups:
• Hard coral – All scleractinian corals including massive, branching, tabular, digitate and mushroom.
• Soft coral – All alcyonarian corals, i.e. corals lacking a hard limestone skeleton.
• Other BMI – Any other BMI identified, e.g. hydroid, ascidian, barnacle, oyster, mollusc. Other BMI are listed in the
“comments” column of the GIS site layer.
A visual estimate of algae percent cover was recorded at each site. When present, algae were categorised into five functional
groups and the percent contribution of each functional group was estimated:
• Erect macrophyte – Macrophytic algae with an erect growth form and high level of cellular differentiation, e.g. Sargassum,
Caulerpa and Galaxaura species.
• Erect calcareous – Algae with erect growth form and high level of cellular differentiation containing calcified segments,
e.g. Halimeda species.
• Filamentous – Thin, thread-like algae with little cellular differentiation.
• Encrusting – Algae that grows in sheet-like form attached to the substrate or benthos, e.g. coralline algae.
• Turf mat – Algae that forms a dense mat on the substrate.
All survey data were entered into a Geographic Information System (GIS) developed for Torres Strait using ArcGIS 10.4.
Rectified colour satellite imagery of Orman Reefs (Source: ESRI, Landsat 2018), field notes and aerial photographs taken
from the helicopter during surveys were used to identify geographical features, such as reef tops, channels and deep-water
drop-offs, to assist in determining seagrass meadow boundaries. Three GIS layers were created to describe spatial features
of the region: a site layer, seagrass meadow layer, and seagrass biomass interpolation layer.
This layer contains data collected at each site, including:
• Temporal details – survey date.
• Spatial details – latitude/longitude.
• Habitat information – sediment type; seagrass information including presence/absence and above-ground biomass (total and
for each species); percent cover of seagrass, algae, hard coral, soft coral, sponges, other BMI, and open substrate; percent
contribution of algae functional groups to algae cover.
• Sampling method and any relevant comments.
Seagrass meadow layer
Seagrass presence/absence site data, mapping sites, field notes, and satellite imagery were used to construct meadow boundaries
in ArcGIS®. The meadow (polygon) layer provides summary information for all sites within the meadow, including:
1. Habitat information – seagrass species present, meadow community type, meadow cover, mean meadow biomass ± standard error
(SE), meadow area ± reliability estimate (R), and number of sites within the meadow.
2. A meadow identification number and reef name; this allows individual meadows to be compared among years.
3. Sampling methods.
Meadow community type was determined according to seagrass species composition within each meadow. Species composition was
based on the percent each species’ biomass contributed to mean meadow biomass. A standard nomenclature system was used to
categorize each meadow (Table 1). This nomenclature also included a measure of meadow density categories (light, moderate,
dense) determined by mean biomass and the dominant species within the meadow (Table 2).
Mapping precision estimates (R; in metres) were based on the mapping method used for that meadow (Table 3). Mapping precision
estimates ranged from 10-50m for intertidal seagrass meadows and up to 100m for meadow mapping precision estimates based
on the distance between sites with and without seagrass. Mapping precision estimate was used to calculate an error buffer
around each meadow; the area of this buffer is expressed as a meadow reliability estimate (R) in hectares. Meadow area and
error buffers were determined in hectares using the calculate geometry function in ArcGIS.
Table 1. Nomenclature for seagrass community types.
Community type (Species composition)
Species A (Species A is 90-100% of composition)
Species A with Species B (Species A is 60-90% of composition)
Species A with Species B/Species C (Species A is 50% of composition)
Species A/Species B (Species A is 40-60% of composition)
Table 2. Density categories and mean above-ground biomass ranges for each species used in determining seagrass community
Species: H. ovalis
Categories: Light (<1), Moderate (1 - 5), Dense (>5)
Species: C. serrulata, C. rotundata, S. isoetifolium, T. hemprichii
Categories: Light (<5), Moderate (5 - 25), Dense (>25)
Species: E. acoroides, T. ciliatum
Categories: Light (<40), Moderate (40 - 100), Dense (>100)
Table 3. Mapping precision and methods for seagrass meadows.
Mapping precision: Mapping method
- Meadow boundaries mapped in detail by GPS from helicopter
- Intertidal meadows completely exposed or visible at low tide
- Relatively high density of mapping and survey sites
- Recent aerial photography and satellite imagery aided in mapping
- Meadow boundaries determined from helicopter and camera
- Inshore boundaries mapped from helicopter
- Offshore boundaries interpreted from survey sites and satellite imagery
Seagrass biomass interpolation layer
An inverse distance weighted (IDW) interpolation was applied to seagrass site data to describe spatial variation in seagrass
biomass across Kai and Gariar Reef meadows. The interpolation was conducted in ArcMap 10.4.
This dataset consists of 3 shapefiles with a spatial reference of GDA94.
1. Orman Reefs seagrass community type 2018.lpk
Includes 2 individual seagrass meadows at Kai and Gariar Reefs mapped in 2018 with information including individual meadow
ID, meadow mean seagrass biomass (g DW m-2) ± SE, number of sites surveyed, seagrass cover, meadow area ± R, seagrass community
type, seagrass species present, survey dates, survey method, and data author. ESRI and Landsat satellite image basemaps
were used as background source data to check meadow and site boundaries, and re-map where required.
2. Orman Reefs seagrass biomass interpolation 2018.lpk
An inverse distance weighted (IDW) interpolation was applied to seagrass site data to describe spatial variation in biomass
across each meadow at Kai and Gariar Reefs.
Includes information including latitude/longitude, seagrass presence/absence, algae and benthic macro-invertebrate percent
cover, percent cover of algae functional groups, individual seagrass species biomass, survey date, survey method, and data
These shapefiles have been presented as 2 layer packages based on symbology from specific columns:
1. Orman Reefs seagrass present absent intertidal 2018.lpk
2. Orman Reefs seagrass species composition 2018.lpk
The original data was provided as ArcMap Layer Packages which were converted to open formats (Shapefile, CSV and GeoTiff)
for use in the eAtlas mapping system and as part of the dataset download. These conversion were performed with no modifications
to the underlying data.
An assessment of seagrass condition for Kai and Gariar Reefs, and for all of Torres Strait, can be found in this publication:
Carter AB, Mellors JM, Reason C, & Rasheed MA (2019). ‘Torres Strait Seagrass 2019 Report Card’. Centre for Tropical Water
& Aquatic Ecosystem Research Publication 19/16, James Cook University, Cairns
This dataset is filed in the eAtlas enduring data repository at: data/TSRA_2018-22/TS_JCU_Orman-Reefs_2018