Monitoring the physical environment


Image: Ray Berkelmans

AIMS monitors and documents changes in environmental conditions and the health of seabed communities, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia’s coral reefs, helping us to make better predictions about the impact of climate change.

The environment plays a major role in determining the health and sustainability of most seabed communities. Monitoring helps us to understand the factors influencing reef systems’ health and their future sustainability.

AIMS has developed a greater understanding of the history and variety of environmental conditions in which corals thrive or die by identifying changes in sea temperatures, pH, nutrient levels, salinity and turbidity.

Our monitoring also provides early warning for coral bleaching events. This supplies accurate and timely information to reef managers, and to scientists who need to plan their field programs.

Modelled monitoring data also helps us develop scenarios on how systems can be managed in the future.

AIMS has developed a range of observational equipment to monitor the oceans and its seabed communities, from simple commercial temperature loggers to complex instruments that measure the internal processes in corals under natural field conditions.

These include:

  • respirometers that give real-time information about how corals obtain and use energy
  • laser-based devices to measure daily coral growth
  • fluorometers that measure the activity of symbiotic algae within the coral tissue
  • cameras that record and measure long-term growth and survival.

These instruments are deployed in a range of projects, from nearshore water quality monitoring to offshore oceanographic work. The AIMS Data Centre and various project websites compile the data for uptake and use by the scientific and general communities.