Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System

The Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System (GBROOS) is the world's first reef-based IP data network, giving researchers an unprecedented range of data on reef conditions and enabling them to better track changes and impacts.

The Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) is a nationwide collaborative program designed to observe the oceans around Australia, including coastal zones and the ‘bluewater' open oceans. AIMS is co-ordinating the GBROOS node of this ambitious scheme.

GBROOS assimilates data from permanent moorings, readings from vessels at sea and remote sensing via satellites, plus an intelligent monitoring network, for which AIMS is the national operator, named the Facility for the Automated Intelligent Monitoring of Marine Systems (FAIMMS).

The FAIMMS sensor network is an array of small, wirelessly interconnected sensors that stream data to a central aggregation point. The sensors are ‘smart' in that they can change the way they sample depending on environmental conditions, such as sampling more often when the temperature gets above a pre-set level. Initially they are being deployed in a large scale pilot to collect data related to the interaction of heat and light in coral bleaching, and to understanding the impact of up-welling from the Coral Sea.

The permanent moorings give information about the water column and are used to study the movement of water along the reef and any up-welling of water from the open ocean onto the continental shelf. GBROOS has four pairs of moorings located north-south between Lizard Island and Heron Island. Each pair has one off-shore deep mooring and one near-shore shallow mooring to allow the detection of water moving up and onto the reef shelf.

This data are mapped against satellite Sea Surface Temperature (SST) images to show what is happening over the whole Coral Sea. The satellite sensors are calibrated against ground temperature measurements to ensure accuracy.

Another source of information is temperature, water quality and nutrients data from vessels that collect water at precise GPS locations as they travel around the area. Two AIMS research vessels and the Voyages Heron Island and Fantasea Whitsunday ferries are being modified for this role.

IMOS will provide data to support research on many of the critical marine issues facing Australia, including climate change and ecosystem sustainability. The first data from the project will be available in mid-2008.

18 March 2008