Marine Monitoring Program


Monitoring of riverine flood plumes is part of an interlinked project under the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Monitoring program (MMP). The MMP assesses the health of key marine ecosystems (inshore coral reefs and intertidal seagrasses), and the condition of water quality in the inshore GBR lagoon. Riverine flood plumes are of significant ecological importance to the GBR as river runoff is the principal carrier of sediment, nutrients and contaminants from the land into the coastal and inshore lagoon waters.

This component of the MMP aims to assess concentrations and transport of major land-sourced pollutants to the GBR lagoon and quantify the exposure of reef ecosystems to these contaminants. Over the course of the MMP, this project will deliver information on the exposure of reef ecosystems to land-sourced pollutants in the inshore GBR.

We have now started to describe water quality gradients in flood plumes at particular points in time related to catchment and land use characteristics. This will lead to further understanding of the exposure of reef ecosystems to these land-based contaminants. New research into phytoplankton community dynamics will help resolve the impacts of short-term nutrient pulses on the primary producers of the GBR.

Increased surveillance of plume extents and duration is now possible through the use of remote sensing technology. Working in conjunction with staff from CSIRO, we are now using their regional-based algorithms to further our understanding of the specific water quality gradients across large temporal and spatial scales. The objectives of this research are to use available remote sensed imagery to complement current flood plume monitoring methods. This includes using ocean colour imagery to determine flood plume type and spatial extent, examining the historical, spatial and temporal variability of flood plumes within the GBR to assist in hydrodynamic modelling, and further validation of regionally based algorithms suited to inshore turbid coastal waters.

View the 2021-22 Water Quality Marine Monitoring Program Annual Report:

Contact us for more information

Further Reading

Journal Articles

Alvarez-Romero, J.G., Devlin, M., Teixeira da Silva, E., Petus, C., Ban, N.C., Pressey, R.L., Kool, J., Roberts, J., Cerdeira-Estrada, S., Wenger, A.S. & Brodie, J. (2013). A novel approach to model exposure of coastal-marine ecosystems to riverine flood plumes based on remote sensing techniques. Journal of Environmental Management 119, 194-207.

Devlin, M.J., Petus, C., da Silva, E., Tracey, D., Wolff, N.H., Waterhouse, J., & Brodie, J. (2015) Water quality and river plume monitoring in the Great Barrier Reef: An overview of methods based on ocean colour satellite data. Remote Sensing, 7: 12909-12941. doi: 10.3390/rs71012909.

Petus, C., Devlin, M., Thompson, A., McKenzie, L., Teixeira Da Silva, E., Collier, C., Tracey, D. & Martin, M. (2016) Estimating the exposure of coral reefs and seagrass meadows to land-sourced contaminants in river flood plumes of the Great Barrier Reef: validating a simple satellite risk framework with environmental data. Remote Sensing 8(3), 210. doi: 10.3390/rs8030210.

Petus, C., Teixeira da Silva, E., Devlin, M., Wenger, A. & Álvarez-Romero, J. G. (2014). Using MODIS data for mapping of water types within river plumes in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: towards the production of river plume risk maps for reef and seagrass ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Management 137, 163-177.


Technical Reports

Access our annual reports here:

15/57 Marine Monitoring Program: Final report of JCU activities 2012/13 – Flood plumes and extreme weather monitoring for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Devlin, M., da Silva, E.T., Petus, C., & Tracey, D.

14/01 Reef rescue marine monitoring program: Final report of JCU activities 2012/13 – Flood plumes and extreme weather monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority – Final report. Devlin, M., da Silva, E.T., Petus, C., Tracey, D., Wenger, A., & Debose, J.

11/12 Reef rescue marine monitoring program: Flood plume monitoring annual report. Incorporating results from the Extreme Weather Incident Response program, flood plume monitoring. Devlin, M.J., Wenger, A., Waterhouse, J., Romero, J., Abbot, B., Bainbridge, Z.T., & Lewis, S.E.



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