The Great Barrier Reef Marine Monitoring Program surveys and reports on the health of inshore coral, seagrass and water quality every year, and has done so for over 15 years.
Every summer, we examine satellite images of floods and river plumes entering the Great Barrier Reef. Monitoring teams measure the pollutants in them, and link these and other pressures to effects we observe on inshore coral and seagrass meadows .
This has improved our scientific understanding of how the Reef is affected by pressures (e.g. cyclones, floods, rising ocean temperatures and land-based run-off), and informed our management decisions.
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Why do we monitor?
We need an up-to-date understanding of the condition of inshore habitats. Knowing the effects of pressures on these habitats helps target management actions and report information widely.
- We need to know:
- when and where river flows and flood waters affect inshore marine waters, and what pollutants are carried by them
- how extreme events and multiple pressures over many years affect important Great Barrier Reef habitats
- whether habitats are recovering, based on long-term trends in water quality (turbidity/water clarity, nutrients), coral and seagrass condition
Who is involved?
The program is coordinated by the Reef Authority. The achievements of the program are due to successful and enduring partnerships.
- Our major partners are:
- the Australian Institute of Marine Science,
- James Cook University -TropWater, and
- Cape York Water Monitoring Partnership.
- Monitoring occurs in collaboration with Traditional Owners in their sea country. Water quality sampling in Cape York involves the:
- Yintingga Aboriginal Corp,
- Rinyirru Aboriginal Corp, and
- Yuka Baja Muliku Rangers.
- The Wuthathi,
- Kuku Yau,
- Yuku Baja uMulik and
- Girringun groups assist with seagrass monitoring.
- We hope to expand the inclusion of Traditional Owners in the program guided by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Strategy.
In addition, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, community volunteers and others assist with or undertake monitoring.
How does the program connect to other activities?
Marine Monitoring Program data informs the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program and is used to evaluate progress towards the Reef Plan 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan targets, objectives and outcomes. It also informs progress against the objectives under the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan.
We share the results will a broad range of stakeholders through seminars, Reef Health updates, fact sheets, briefings, and reports. The five-yearly Outlook Report considers the information in its assessment of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, pressures, and likely future.
As part of our toolkit for managing the Great Barrier Reef, information is used in many ways. For example, after extreme events such as floods and cyclones, the Field Management Incident Response team use it inform Response Plans. Data from the program are also used to evaluate water quality against legislated water quality guidelines