Great Barrier Reef case study
Photos snapped every day from outer space are part of an Australian Government initiative to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Satellite images of the reef’s water colour are combined with more than 10 years of records relating to sea surface temperature, chlorophyll levels, suspended sediments, and dissolved organic matter via the Marine Water Quality Dashboard. Together the data captures an accurate picture of daily changes occurring in the reef’s water quality.
The dashboard is a publicly available resource, available to anyone involved in reef conservation, science and management to access the information and draw on it for their own use.
(Photo: Bureau of Meteorology)
`Poor water quality is one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef,’ Greg Stuart from the Bureau of Meteorology said. `By integrating data already available, the dashboard is helping to document and respond to potential environmental events like coral bleaching that have a devastating effect on the reef.’
The dashboard is one of the tools that make up eReefs, a five-year project that commenced in January 2012, and the first step in building comprehensive coastal information systems for Australia.
The eReefs project is a collaboration between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science and Queensland Government supported by funding from the Australian Government, Queensland Government, the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.
`eReefs plugs the gaps in our knowledge. It helps us understand the Great Barrier Reef from the catchments, down the rivers, across the lagoon and into the ocean,’ Greg said. `Rather than duplicating data, what we already have is more accessible and integrated. That means we can adapt and tailor approaches to environmental issues rather than applying a one size fits all model.’
eReefs links environmental data and information on the movement and changes in water and water quality moving through catchments and into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
`eReefs allows us to identify areas of concern and run different scenarios to identify the best conservation options,’ Greg said. `For example, we can map the environmental footprint of land management practices in one part of the catchment to pinpoint areas of concern.’
This information is being used by the Australian and Queensland governments to develop practical and immediate solutions to environmental issues. `Using combined data we can see how changing farming practices in Mackay (or any other Great Barrier Reef region) has an impact on nitrogen levels in the water. Natural Resource Management regional bodies are then able to take the data to land managers and work with them to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers that have been flowing from the catchment onto the reef.’
Delivering eReefs as web-based data services means world-class science is available for Australian businesses to interpret, create new information products and develop their own innovations for their business systems and processes.
`Having real-time data is vital to day to day management of the surrounding catchment and means we’re interpreting information to answer pressing questions,’ said Greg.
Information will benefit government agencies, reef managers, policy makers, researchers, industry and local communities.
`For the first time we’re modelling each end of the catchment,’ Greg said. `Up to now there hasn’t been a way to model cause and effect but eReefs is taking us from observations, modelling, forecasting and through to effective management options, all of which mean a better future for this outstanding ecosystem.’
Find out more about eReefs on eReefs: Providing water quality information for the Great Barrier Reef