many coral samples at the bottom of a tank

Other contaminants

Determining the risk contaminants pose to tropical organisms and marine ecosystems

Along with sediments, nutrients and pesticides, other contaminants have also been detected in the inshore ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef.

In general, there is a lack of available monitoring data. Their presence, concentrations and potential effects are not yet well understood.

Our research

AIMS conducts regular in-situ monitoring of microplastic contamination in the Great Barrier Reef. We link this data with hydrodynamic modelling to improve our understanding of potential sources and sinks of these small plastic fragments.

AIMS’ work also helps determine the risk that microplastics and other contaminants pose to tropical organisms and marine ecosystems. Our ecotoxicologists use laboratory studies to establish the concentration levels that can cause ‘ecologically relevant’ effects. This information contributes to water quality guideline values and informs ecological risk assessments.


Contaminants detected on the inshore Great Barrier Reef
Detected contaminants Likely contaminants Known and likely sources
  • antifouling paint components
  • coal dust and particles
  • marine debris (including microplastics)
  • metals and metalloids
  • petroleum hydrocarbons
  • Pharmaceutical and

    personal care products such as sunscreen
  • grazing and cropping
  • intensive animal farming
  • urban residential areas (via stormwater runoff)
  • waste treatment and disposal
  • mining
  • ports and industrial areas 
  • commercial and recreational shipping
  • Defence activities on land and at sea