Effective, efficient and evidence-based marine reserve management

AIMS will work with relevant managers at state and federal levels to provide the data, predictions and validations needed to achieve these goals.

Australia’s marine estate contains a wealth of biodiversity that provide a range of ecosystem services and direct economic benefits through a growing tourism sector. Effective management of these areas includes provision of specific reserves where protection and conservation of these resources is a priority.

The identification and optimal allocation of reserve areas, and effective adaptive management of these reserves, require the strategic collection of information on the distribution and condition of key habitats and species, as well as feedback on the effectiveness of management actions.

Given the vast areas covered by our marine estate, strategic sampling combined with validated modelling, system status predictions and trends will be critical to successful, adaptive management of our marine reserves.

Achievements

Extensive research and monitoring programs to help marine park management:

  • We have developed monitoring protocols and contributed to models for ecology, economy and tourism in the Ningaloo Marine Park through a research collaboration with the Western Australian Marine Science Institute.
  • Around 1200 new plant and animal species were identified across Lizard Island, Heron Island and Ningaloo Reef, thanks to our four-year CReefs census project. CReefs collected 26,000 specimens across 850 sites with the help of our partners BHP Billiton and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
  • We have provided much of the underlying data for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Outlook report, including reporting and explaining the major decline of coral cover over the last 27 years. We have also conducted performance monitoring of the effectiveness of the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef marine park.

Future directions

Our key goals over the next five years include:

  • playing a lead role in the development and implementation of an integrated monitoring program and adaptive management framework for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
  • identifying the location and significance of critical habitats for key threatened and endangered species, such as sharks, turtles and whales, and assessing whether current reserves and management systems address current vulnerabilities
  • developing a risk assessment and decision-support system for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to identify the most effective options for management interventions across a range of issues
  • establishing an agreed framework for coordinated regional assessments for north-west Australia that facilitates adaptive management of new commonwealth marine reserves using monitoring data generated by both industry and government
  • developing new monitoring methods that will enable cost-effective expansion of our monitoring into new, poorly understood areas
  • developing an information system (eAtlas) for our northern marine areas, which will provide key information to managers and key stakeholders on the status and significance of marine reserves in the Great Barrier Reef and northern Australia.