Monitoring Seagrass for Water Quality

Introduction

Monitoring inshore seagrasses is part of 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. Seagrasses are of significant ecological importance to the GBR as their high productivity rates support green turtles and dugongs, as well as invertebrate, fish and algae species, some of which are important for fisheries.

Transect over seagrass meadow

Over 12 years, this component of the MMP has reported on the condition of inshore seagrass meadows. Seagrass abundance (percent cover), reproductive effort, and leaf tissue nutrients are assessed at 29 locations across the GBR. These three indicators are scored for each of the six Natural Resource Management regions for the annual Reef Plan report card.

Additional indicators of seagrass condition and resilience are used to assist with the interpretation of the Report Card score, including: seagrass species composition, relative meadow extent and density of seeds in the seed bank. Environmental pressures are also recorded including within-canopy water temperature, within-canopy benthic light, sediment composition as well as macroalgae and epiphyte abundance.

water quality sample

This monitoring program provides up-to-date and essential long-term information for a number of purposes. The health and resilience indicators examine seagrass health in relation to water quality and end-of-catchment pollutant loads, such as nutrients and sediments for the Paddock to Reef Program. The trends in seagrass condition and resilience reported by the MMP have shown that GBR seagrasses are dynamic and influenced by changes in land run-off but are also affected by extreme weather events and coastal development. These findings have also been foundational to the Outlook Report for the GBR and the Reef Plan Scientific Consensus Statement.

This monitoring program is supported and enhanced by research on methods development and on understanding how cumulative pressures affect seagrass condition and resilience.

See here for further information

The GBR Marine Monitoring Program

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/managing-the-reef/how-the-reefs-managed/reef-2050-marine-monitoring-program

Reef Plan

https://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au

Outlook Report

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/managing-the-reef/great-barrier-reef-outlook-report

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Further reading

McKenzie, L., Collier, C.J., Langlois, L., Yoshida, R.L., Smith, N., and Waycott, M. (2018). Marine Monitoring Program: Annual report for inshore seagrass monitoring 2016-17. In Report for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Townsville: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority), pp. 248 pages.

McKenzie, L., Collier, C.J., Langlois, L., Yoshida, R.L., Smith, N., and Waycott, M. (2017). Marine Monitoring Program: Inshore seagrass annual report for seagrass monitoring 2015-16. In Report for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Townsville: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority), pp. 234.

Schaffelke, B., Collier, C., Kroon, F., Lough, J., McKenzie, L., Ronan, M., Uthicke, S., and Brodie, J. (2017). Chapter 1: The condition of coastal and marine ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef and their responses to water quality and disturbances. In Scientific Consensus Statement 2017: A synthesis of the science of land-based water quality impacts on the Great Barrier Reef (State of Queensland, 2017).

McKenzie, L., Collier, C.J., Langlois, L., Yoshida, R.L., Smith, N., and Waycott, M. (2016). Marine Monitoring Program: Annual report for inshore seagrass monitoring: 2014 to 2015. In Report for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Cairns: TropWATER, James Cook University), pp. 236 pages.

 

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