ARMS to live on after CReefs


22 November 2010
While the field program of the CReefs Australia program will finish this month, several important developments to come out of the project are only just beginning.
One legacy of the project will be the Automated Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). 
Collaboratively designed by the Australian, Pacific and Atlantic nodes of the CReefs project, each of the ARMS is a set of stacked PVC plates that provide habitat for marine life.
The ARMS are designed to mimic the complexity of coral reefs to attract coral reef animals, particularly small invertebrates.
Series of ARMS were installed on the ocean floor at all three of the CReefs Australia sites, left for between one and three years, and then retrieved during field expeditions. Samples from the ARMS were then processed to discover all manner of creatures that had set up home in the structures during that time.
There are three sets of ARMS left at Lizard Island, which will be retrieved in early 2011. There are also approximately 500 ARMS deployed all over the world as part of the CReefs program.
The ARMS are designed to provide a standard method for taxonomic and molecular analysis to measure the biodiversity of organisms that could be applied globally and over time. They should also allow scientists to monitor and predict ecological impacts of global climate change, particularly ocean warming and acidification.
AIMS Principal Research Scientist and CReefs Principal Investigator Dr Julian Caley says that some very interesting discoveries have been made using the ARMS. He hopes that the structures will be increasingly used for marine research. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States, for example, has been involved in further developing the ARMS and in deploying the structures at several sites.
While the CReefs Australia project itself is winding down, Dr Caley says that there is still a strong need for extensive research into coral reef biodiversity.
CReefs Australia has been a partnership between BHP Billiton, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Census of Marine Life, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.