Existing information, methods and capabilities were harnessed in this research theme to develop a blueprint for a sustained national monitoring strategy targeting Key Ecological Features (KEFs) in Australia’s Commonwealth waters.
New methods were devised for survey design, and for analysing data from non-extractive sampling techniques: part of the toolkit required for a national monitoring program.
A novel marine application of the Generalised Random Tessellation Stratified survey design was successfully trialled in Commonwealth marine reserves (CMRs) and KEFs in Commonwealth waters east of the Abrolhos Islands were mapped. Shelf rocky reef systems, demersal fish and benthic invertebrate communities were identified in the Flinders CMR, the Abrolhos KEF, the Solitary Islands KEF and the Geographe CMR. More than 110 km² of additional high-resolution multibeam sonar data were acquired in the Solitary Islands KEF, Flinders CMR and Tasman Fracture CMR.
Research in this theme examined how marine reserves affect the marine environment, how to use drop cameras in combination with baited remote underwater video systems to simultaneously assess fish communities and habitat distribution, and how management activities are affecting habitats and fish communities. Existing data were used to identify productivity trends in enhanced-pelagic-productivity KEFs, and to test qualitative model predictions for rock lobster, urchin and kelp communities in Tasmania’s Maria Island marine reserves.
A national nomenclature standard was developed for labelling habitat features and organisms in marine imagery and a national data catalogue, ARMADA, was built to visualise biological and oceanographic datasets collected at KEFs and CMRs. This facility was developed to identify any consistently collected data useful for monitoring KEFs and CMRs.
Scientists engaged with the Department of the Environment to help articulate priority management questions relating to the health of the Australia’s Commonwealth waters (subsequently progressed in the national monitoring blueprint). A shared understanding was reached of the need for robust survey designs and flexible monitoring programs to accommodate variability in funding and research capacity.
ABOVE: An example of sedimentary rock-type features found across the shelf in the Flinders CMR. Image: IMAS/GA
Experience has been gained in designing and implementing surveys in waters beyond depths accessible to divers, with the built-in flexibility necessary for a long-term monitoring program. Additional expertise and novel analytical methods have been developed to analyse spatial correlation and temporal trends in marine imagery data. This was achieved through a highly collaborative approach that made use of the individual capabilities of Hub partners and collaborators.
This research theme has developed a scientific perspective on how to proceed with a national marine monitoring program, as well as practical tools to support its implementation. Resource managers will require further information and guidance as they work to incorporate this scientific foundation in an enduring national program for monitoring the performance of the CMR network and marine ecosystem health more generally.
Outputs from this theme contributed to an integrated monitoring framework for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
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Australian Centre for Field Robotics, The University of Sydney
Australian Institute of Marine Science
Department of Fisheries
Integrated Marine Observing System
New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
University of Tasmania
University of Western Australia