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New program monitors climate change on Ningaloo coral and fish

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02 February 2009

Ningaloo Marine Park's coral and fish will be monitored by a new program being set up this month.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) leave Perth today to trial the program as part of work being carried out for the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI).

Team leader Dr Martial Depczynski from AIMS said scientific consensus from around the world was that coral reefs were threatened by a number of different sources and phenomena, including climate change, and that tight monitoring programs were vital to their management.


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Ningaloo reef fish. Image: AIMS.

"I am pleased that a recruitment monitoring program is now being established for coral reef fishes and corals at Ningaloo, which is one of the most beautiful natural resources in Australia," he said.

Each year researchers will be able to monitor fish and coral influxes into Ningaloo Marine Park's reefs by looking at baby fish and coral recruits at a number of sites.

Dr Depczynski said the team would establish long-term monitoring sites inside and outside the marine park's sanctuary zones and have the ability to annually measure changes in the size, timing and reproduction rates of coral and fish.

"In time the research should be able to determine the relative health of key coral and fish communities across Ningaloo and indicate which reefs are sources of larval export and which areas are important to new recruits, both of which are vital to maintaining a healthy ecosystem," he said.

Dr Depczynski will be accompanied by Dr Shaun Wilson and Dr Thomas Holmes from DEC and Paul Tinkler and Chico Birrell from AIMS.

"Our work will provide information that can be used by marine park managers to alter marine park zones," he said.

Ningaloo Reef is 300 kilometres long and home to 250 coral, 500 fish and 600 mollusc species.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Martial Depczynski

Phone: 0448 140 787

Sue McKenna , AIMS Media Liaison

Phone: 0424 196 771.

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