Pesticides, and particularly herbicides from agricultural sources, have been detected in nearshore sites of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) all year round. The actual impacts from these concentrations of herbicides is under debate and information on  cumulative impacts is required. To address this, a series of experiments will examine how plants and corals are affected by herbicides in the water in conjunction with other stressors such as temperature, low salinity and low light. An important source of herbicides in coastal waters is flood plumes from river runoff. By creating experimental conditions similar to GBR flood plumes we will determine how long herbicides persist and how they are transformed as they travel into coastal waters.


The project team will assess and describe all existing and potential sources of pollution to the Torres Strait marine environment. This will be combined with information on water movement patterns to assess the hazard (and to some degree risk) of these pollutant sources to marine ecosystems and public health. The project will use the results to make recommendations to managers on priority pollutant management in the region, and to design a basic monitoring program for reporting on the status of water quality in the Torres Strait.


Our current knowledge of the mechanisms that affect diversity of plants and animals on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is minimal. This project will map the diversity of groups of organisms and environments of the GBR using existing long-term and large-scale data, and relate biotic diversity to spatial, environmental and temporal drivers. These relationships will be interpreted in the context of risk, zoning and management.


This project will use complementary laboratory and field experiments to investigate the combined impacts of declining water quality (increased nutrients and sediments, and reduced light and salinity), increased sea temperature and ocean acidification on key reef species groups such as corals, foraminifera, crown-of-thorns starfish and rock-boring sea urchins.


Seagrass meadows are a vital habitat in tropical marine ecosystems. Along the coast they trap sediments and absorb contaminants which would otherwise pollute the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Seagrasses are highly affected by water clarity and so are negatively impacted by run-off and other factors that increase turbidity (water cloudiness). This project will provide information about how seagrass responds to the interactive effects of different levels of light, nutrients and salinity and will contribute to the development of thresholds for the water quality parameters most likely to affect seagrasses.


This project will determine the movement and habitat use of large predatory fishes such as sharks and coral trout in reef and coastal environments of the Great Barrier Reef. Individual fish are fitted with acoustic transmitters that are detected by an array of acoustic monitoring stations. These monitoring stations record the presence and movement of fish between the coast and the reef, and between reefs. Predator presence and movement will be integrated with habitat mapping and environmental monitoring data to identify factors that lead to changes in movement patterns and to define any preferred locations or conditions that can be targeted for conservation or management.


This project is investigating changes in the biodiversity of sharks in inshore nursery areas along the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) coast. The aim is to understand how different factors, such as habitat, season, zoning and environmental parameters, such as discharge from rivers and streams, affect the abundance and diversity of sharks along the central GBR coast.


This project will help in the management of seabird populations of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and greater Coral Sea areas by providing information about the foraging locations, behaviour, and success of different species. Researchers have trialled and successfully used a range of tracking systems on foraging shearwaters in the southern GBR. From this work they have been able to describe shearwater foraging habitat at near-colony scales and identify the level of prey resources required for successful breeding. Studies in both the northern and southern GBR have provided preliminary data on links between seabird foraging success and specific ocean weather systems and currents. The project has also identified potential overlap between seabird foraging areas and blue-water billfish and tuna fishing activity outside the GBR.


Little is known about the impacts of fire on rainforest vegetation or  the animals which depend on it. Fire can control vegetation regrowth after cyclones and help regeneration of eucalypt species, but it may also be important in determining succession in drier rainforest types.  Fire also poses a threat to animals relying on forest canopy habitat or sheltering in fallen timber. This project will investigate the positive and negative impacts of fire on rainforest vegetation and wildlife.


This project focuses on understanding the current and future risks and responses of invasive species in the Wet Tropics. The aim is to develop a strategic approach to pest management that considers the complexity of ecological processes involved with establishment and spread and takes account of the values and assets in the region. The project will contribute to the management of invasive plants and animals by providing prioritisation tools that align with existing regional pest management frameworks.




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