Improving marine indicators
Changes are occasionally made to the way results are assessed for the Great Barrier Reef Report Card. The report card is produced by the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef program).
The Paddock to Reef program is based on adaptive management and continuous improvement. Changes are made when scientists discover better ways of assessing key indicators or when the methods are inadequate.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Marine Monitoring Program has changed the way coral is assessed for Report Card 2015 and has plans to improve marine water quality reporting.
Major changes to the coral metric for Report Card 2015 include:
- adding a community composition indicator (e.g. the diversity of coral species)
- introducing thresholds that recognise corals vary across regions
- including data for inshore coral communities from the Australian Institute of Marine Science long-term-monitoring program, which has not been included previously.
The Marine Monitoring Program does not assess inshore corals in the Cape York or Burnett Mary regions. Options are being investigated for reporting mid and off-shelf coral results across all regions in future years.
Water quality changes
The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan Independent Science Panel has low confidence in the water quality metric which relies on remote sensing from satellite imagery to assess inshore marine waters. Remote sensing works well for measuring things like ground cover and tree cover. However, it does not perform as well in the inshore marine environment because cloud cover and high turbidity makes it difficult to assess sediment and nutrient levels.
Remote sensing is used in Report Card 2015 but is not reported in the Cape York and Burnett Mary regions because the data has not been sufficiently validated.
A new approach is needed for water quality monitoring that responds to significant changes in river flows and pollutant loads.
Priority work will be undertaken to:
- test the e-Reefs marine water quality model for its ability to deliver a better water quality assessment than reporting based on remote sensing
- assess whether actual water quality monitoring data should be included in the report card
- consider including an indicator of light because light is important for coral and seagrass productivity.
This work will start shortly with the aim to complete it for Report Card 2016.