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24.08.2015 00:10 Age: 2 yrs
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National research strengthens platform for marine biodiversity management in Australia

A four-year collaborative research program, in which IMOS has provided a vital role, has strengthened Australia’s national capacity for environmental management and sustainable use of the marine environment.

An AUV-derived image of the benthos at the interface between sediments and relict reef systems on the shelf in the Freycinet CMR. Features include bare sand to the right, an interface marked by brittlestars, sponges, ascidians and drift algae, and the sand inundated invertebrate turf matrix typical of the relict reef itself. Image: IMOS/IMAS.

The National Environmental Program (NERP) Marine Biodiversity Hub was established in 2011 to strengthen the scientific basis for marine biodiversity management. Four years on, it has laid the foundation for Australia to take a more strategic approach to monitoring and managing marine ecosystems.

IMOS Director, Tim Moltmann, points to the partnership with the NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub as an example of organisations working together to generate valuable information and resources for society.

"Our involvement with the NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub clearly demonstrates that pairing a strong research capability with a national infrastructure for sustained observations, creates real impact," said Moltmann.

"It also shows that IMOS is not just about physical oceanography but collects valuable biological data too," he said.

The Hub has provided the Australian Government with marine biodiversity knowledge to support marine bioregional plans and the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network, recovery of species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef.

The 2011-2015 Final Report of the NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub provides non-technical, illustrated summaries of projects that have:

  • optimised methods for surveying and monitoring seabed biodiversity;
  • streamlined data access and standardised data analysis;
  • identified indicators of ecosystem health;
  • devised ways of assessing pressures, cumulative and relative impact and risk;
  • adapted a survey design method to inventory and monitor marine biodiversity; 
  • developed and tested ocean observing equipment including acoustic and remote sensing and visual and physical sampling;
  • characterised Commonwealth marine reserves and Key Ecological Features (areas of significant biodiversity or ecological value in Commonwealth waters); and
  • provided a blueprint for national biodiversity monitoring.

IMOS support for the Marine Biodiversity Hub included:

  • autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to support benthic surveys 
  • tracking and monitoring of white shark movements
  • long-term MODIS sea colour data used to report on ecosystem health
  • a long-term data depository to make NERP data publicly available

Partners in the NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub were University of Tasmania, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Charles Darwin University, Museum Victoria and University of Western Australia.

Collaborative research to support marine biodiversity management will be continued under the National Environmental Science Programme.