$3.4 million partnership to support reef research

August 29, 2007

A new partnership announced on 22 August will support a comprehensive study of life on Australia's coral reefs.

BHP Billiton, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have developed a partnership which will allow three Australian reef sites to be studied as part of CReefs, a global research initiative to document and assess the diversity of coral reef ecosystems.

This $.4 million project, over four years, will enable marine scientists and taxonomists to collect and identify samples during a series of field trips to the Great Barrier Reef's Heron and Lizard Islands and Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

BHP Billiton's Group Executive and Chief Executive Ferrous and Coal Marcus Randolph said BHP Billiton's investment will support the documenting of coral reef biodiversity and identification of issues to be addressed to safeguard critical biodiversity heritage.

"We are delighted to make such an important contribution to advancing science's understanding of coral reef biodiversity and, ultimately, the preservation of our coral reefs," Mr Randolph said.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Chief Executive Judy Stewart said the partnership has delivered urgently needed private funding into the reef research sector.

"Coral reefs are the most diverse and biologically complex marine ecosystems in the world and they are also under threat," she said.

"Understanding coral reef biodiversity is critical to securing their future. We need to understand how reefs operate in order to protect and preserve them. Accelerating that effort is my first priority.

"The private sector's investment in this effort is both timely and important. Australian reefs are rich in biodiversity and are hugely valuable storehouses of information. To exclude them from a study of the world's coral reefs would be unthinkable," Mrs Stewart said.

Launched in late 2005, CReefs (

www.creefs.org) is the coral reef component of the Census of Marine Life (www.coml.org), a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a ten year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in oceans - past, present, and future.

AIMS Chief Executive Officer Dr Ian Poiner said the partnership has ensured that data from Australian reefs will be included in the global census.

"Scientists estimate that less than 10 per cent of life on coral reefs has been identified. CReefs is a major research effort to sample, analyse and document marine life on our reefs," he said.

"This collaboration will also improve scientists' access to existing data and information about coral reef biodiversity which will ultimately improve our understanding of coral reefs and how best to protect them."

The partnership will see the implementation of an employee participation program for BHP Billiton staff who will actively engage in the research project by attending field trips and assisting with data collection.

"We want to give our employees the opportunity to learn about coral reefs directly from the experts" Mr Randolph said.

Media contacts:

Emma Meade ,Media Relations, BHP Billiton
Mobile :0409 199 236

Judy Stewart , Chief Executive, Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Mobile : 0418 781 787

Dr Ian Poiner , Chief Executive Officer, AIMS
Mobile : 0419 702 652