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National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Marine Biodiversity Hub

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  • This metadata record provides a brief overview of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Marine Biodiversity (MB) Hub. The record acts as an aggregation point for all NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub data collections and projects developed as part of this research program. The National Environmental Science Program (NESP) is a $142.5 million initiative of the federal government providing a long-term commitment to environment and climate research. The programme builds on its predecessors – the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) and the Australian Climate Change Science Programme (ACCSP) – to support decision-makers to understand, manage and conserve Australia’s environment by funding world-class biodiversity and climate science. The NESP funding program runs from July 2015 to June 2021 and provides funding for six research hubs. The Marine Biodiversity Hub is a collaborative partnership supported by funding from the Australian Government administered by the Department of the Environment's National Environmental Research Programme. The Marine Biodiversity Hub is comprised of scientists from 10 major research institutions undertaking research of Australian oceans and marine environments, including temperate coastal water quality and marine species. The Marine Biodiversity Hub is administered by the University of Tasmania, and led by Professor Nic Bax. The 4 themes of the Marine Biodiversity Hub under the NESP program include: A. Improving the management of threatened and migratory species B. Supporting management decision making C. Understanding pressures on the marine environment D. Understanding biophysical, economic and social aspects of the marine environment Research products from the NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub are available from http://nespmarine.edu.au and the Australian Ocean Data Network catalogue (http://catalogue.aodn.org.au)

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Synthesis Study - "National trends in coral species following heatwaves". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- This project engaged coral taxonomic experts to annotate existing Reef Life Survey (RLS) photoquadrats taken across northern Australia before and after major disturbances, to allow: • Quantification of the spatial and species-level responses of Australian corals to the 2016 and 2017 marine heatwave and mass bleaching events (and cyclones that occurred during this period). • Identification of the species most threatened by warming and cyclones, and species likely to respond best to restoration efforts. • Contribution to a coral-specific analysis to the next national State of the Environment report. Planned Outputs • Dataset on % cover of corals to highest taxonomic resolution possible from surveys around northern Australia before and after the 2016 mass bleaching event.

  • Achived photoquadrats are available from Reef Life Survey (RLS) surveys undertaken before and after a 2016 bleaching event at all major coral reef systems in Australia. This collection was analysed by experts to annotate coral cover to the highest possible taxonomic resolution for ~40,000 images. Specific Australian Marine Parks included are Ashmore Reef, Mermaid Reef and Coral Sea. NOTE: The high resolution coral taxonomic identification data has been assimilated into the larger global RLS photoquadrats data collection, currently held by AODN. This data is intended to be published before the end of 2020. Once published, the subset of annotation data generated by this project will be published as an excerpt attached to this record.

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Project B2 - "Analysis and elicitation to support State of the Environment reporting for the full spectrum of data availability". No data outputs are expected for this project. -------------------- The availability and quality of observation data that may be used to support State of the Environment reporting lies on a spectrum from: (i) high quality (e.g. Reef Life Survey, Long term reef monitoring programme, Temperate Reef Monitoring programme, state-based MPA monitoring programmes); (ii) moderate quality (e.g. continuous plankton recorder, occasional by catch surveys); (iii) low quality (anecdotal information) to (iv) expert beliefs but no empirical observations. We currently lack a principled process for utilising and merging data of varying quality and from different sources to form a national perspective to support State of the Environment reporting. The key unifying principle to support such a process is the extent to which the available data is representative of the environmental asset in question. As the extent to which the empirical observations accurately represent the state of the asset in both space and time diminishes, so the reliance on expert opinion increases, to the limit where the only available information is expert opinion. This project will provide an over-arching framework to consider these issues, develop practical protocols for blending different data streams with or without experts’ judgement as appropriate, and thereby provide a foundation for improving State of Environment reporting for all types of data sources, from high to low quality. It will do this by developing and applying protocols to support development of the marine chapter of SoE 2106. This currently being developed within a separate CSIRO funded project. The project will use the experience of developing this chapter to make recommendations about appropriate methodologies for future environmental reporting. Importantly the statistical approach and analysis principles will be consistent regardless of the amount or quality of the information available. As a result the framework and analysis methods will remain relevant, even as the quality and quantity of environmental data at the department’s disposal changes. This will provide the consistency of analysis and reporting that is essential to SoE. Expected Outcomes • The provision of two or three examples that demonstrate a unified approach to the use of expert opinion in SoE reporting. These examples will be identified in close collaboration with the Department and will be developed in time to support the marine chapter of 2016 State of the Environment report, contingent on the availability of resources in the second year of the project and timely interaction with the department. • Assessments of the status and trends of environmental assets in the State of the Environment report will be based on a principled and statistically defensible process that can merges and utilises data from all sources including expert opinion.

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Synthesis Study - "Interpreting pressure profiles". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- This project has two objectives: (i) provide a spatial explicit analysis of the relative risks posed to marine conservation values, as defined by the natural values hierarchy of Parks Australia's Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement (MERI) framework, by pressures that operate within Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone and state/territory waters (a "hotspot" analysis); and, (ii) provide a proof of concept of an adaptive, probabilistic assessment of the cumulative risks posed to these values, in a region determined to support the Parks Australia MERI project D7, in a manner that is consistent with the seascape-scale cumulative assessment described in the "Guidelines for analysis of cumulative impacts and risks to the Great Barrier Reef". Planned Outputs • National hotspot maps of risks posed to marine conservation values • Probabilistic assessment (written) of cumulative risks

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Emerging Priorities project - "Assessing the effectiveness of waste management in reducing the levels of plastics entering Australia’s marine environment". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- This project will contribute to better understanding where to target investment in abatement measures by providing information on the extent of the leakage of plastic materials into the marine environment, where the greatest leakages are and in what quantity, and what form they take (e.g. plastic bags, packaging, takeaway containers). It will also identify what type of facilities, policies and outreach strategies governments (state and local) have in place and undertake an assessment of their effectiveness. The objectives of this project are to: 1. Investigate the relationship between plastic debris in the marine environment and litter data from nearby sites; 2. Determine whether there are identifiable pathways through which plastic debris moves into the marine environment; 3. Investigate whether particular investments in facilities, policies or outreach are effective in reducing plastic debris on coasts and in oceans and where investment should be directed in the future; and 4. Initiate an internal department workshop to socialise the outcomes of the research across the relevant arms of the department, including staff involved in approvals, waste, protected species, and parks, and explore the utility of existing data to address the Department’s needs, including those arising from the TAP and the Senate Inquiry. Planned Outputs • A written report and plain English summary for use by state, territory and local governments, which: - Synthesises existing knowledge on the relationship between debris in the marine environment and litter data from nearby sites, the types of litter and the pathways through which litter moves into the marine environment. - Summarises existing coastal debris/litter survey methodologies with discussion of applications of each. • A list of the activities and programs associated with plastic waste reduction (including facilities, policies and outreach), • A publically accessible analysis and summary of different survey methods aiming to reduce debris inputs to the marine environment. - The cost of the activities and programs - Ranking of activities and programs regarding their effectiveness in reducing plastic waste in the marine environment. • Conclusions on where marine debris hot spots are in Australia’s marine environment and effective mitigation strategies. • Recommendations on where more information (scientific, policy, infrastructure, community engagement) is required to obtain a better understanding of the problem and possible solutions. This may include identifying knowledge gaps and needs for further analysis

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Project A7 - "Monitoring population dynamics of ‘Western’ Right Whales off Southern Australia". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- Continuation (since 1993) of annual aerial surveys, to include counts and identification photographs, of Southern Right Whales between Cape Leeuwin (WA) and Ceduna (SA), where wintering animals come close to the coast – adult females to calve, at approximately three-year intervals, other adults and juveniles less regularly. The area is the main wintering ground of a major ‘western’ subpopulation of ‘Australian’ right whales, differing in number and extent of recovery (from 19th century hunting) from an ‘eastern’ subpopulation which so far shows little if any recovery. Counts allow estimation of population trend and current numbers; identification photographs allow estimation of life history parameters. This project serves to implement a very high priority action in the Australian Government’s Conservation Management Plan for Southern Right Whale (2011-21) – Action Area B1: Measuring and monitoring population recovery; continue to obtain and refine population abundance and trends for the south-west population. Planned Outputs • Counts of animals (by class – cows accompanied by calves, other animals, by position (GPS) and time. • Head and (where appropriate) body photographs, by position and time. • Information on Biologically Important Areas for Southern Right Whales in the area surveyed. • ‘Progress’ and ‘Final’ reports, annually • Report annually to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. • Public information through press releases and on the Museum website.

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub project E6 - "Assisting restoration of ecosystem engineers through seed-based and shoot-based programs in the Shark Bay WHS". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- This project is a collaboration between scientists and the Shark Bay Malgana Indigenous community into jointly developed seeding and shoot planting methods to assist natural recovery of seagrasses in preparation for future devastating impacts of climate change. The Shark Bay World Heritage Site (WHS) is unique globally for its natural values, including stromatolites, seagrass meadows and marine megafauna including dugongs, sharks, turtles, and dolphins. The immediate goal is to scale up the existing restoration research to assist recovery of the dominant seagrasses, Amphibolis antarctica and Posidonia australis following the 2011 marine heat wave. Planned Outputs • A seagrass restoration toolkit (multimedia and report format) - will include information on sourcing suitable genetic material • Data on the trial seed restoration outcomes

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Project A4 - "The status of human-shark interactions and initiatives to mitigate risk in Australia". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- Considerable political, public and media attention has recently been focussed on human-shark interactions, specifically surrounding shark attack and ways to mitigate this risk. Finding the most appropriate policy balance between conservation of sharks, maximising public safety and understanding the broader social and economic ramifications/drivers for doing so is a continuing challenge for Government. This project will review the status of human-shark interactions in Australia, provide a synthesis of current initiatives to reduce risk, review recent international efforts to address these issues and identify knowledge gaps to provide an informed base for determining the most appropriate future research and policy support. The project will develop a background document that: • Provides a synthesis of the current state of knowledge of shark-human interactions in Australia, focussing specifically on species such as white sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks • Identifies what initiatives are currently underway nationally to address human-shark interactions including the status of current research as well as current management and policy initiatives. • Identifies technological developments within Australia and internationally in this space • Identifies lessons and experiences from these initiatives • Identifies issues and knowledge gaps • Provides guidance to the Department regarding further investment that is cognisant of State Government initiatives and requirements and ensure a coordinated national knowledge base for addressing these issues

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Emerging Priorities project - "Spatial distribution of marine wildlife in the Bremer Bay region". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- The Bremer Canyon system is a recognised aggregation area for marine wildlife and predictable aggregations of the orca (Orcinus orca) underpin local ecotourism. Additionally, the value of the region has been recognised in the establishment of the Bremer Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR) (https://www.environment.gov.au/topics/marine/marine-reserves/south-west/bremer) and the identification of the Albany canyon group and adjacent shelf break as a Key Ecological Feature in the South-West Marine Bioregional Plan (https://www.environment.gov.au/sprat-public/action/kef/view/23;jsessionid=01AD87551D0DE1B0248C8722BE137004). Little is known about the shelf and canyon region given its remote location and the relatively high cost of conducting offshore research. However, citizen-driven science has documented a stable aggregation of marine wildlife including orcas, sperm whales (Physeter microcephalus), and giant squid (Architeuthis sp.) occurring to the west of the established CMR. There is also speculation that this stable wildlife aggregation may be driven by seabed oil seeps with a hydrocarbon-based food chain although this is unsubstantiated. The potential uniqueness of this wildlife aggregation within the region and what drives its presence remains unknown. There is a significant need to determine the regional importance of this aggregation and its relation to the existing protection afforded by the Bremer CMR. The objective of this project is to improve the understanding of the importance of the Bremer CMR and surrounding region to marine wildlife. The project will determine the distribution of key wildlife of interest across the recognised pelagic aggregation and the Bremer CMR in order to inform Australian Government decision-making to protect the environment, conserve biodiversity and allow for sustainable use. The project will also improve understanding about the likely causes for wildlife aggregations and provide recommendations for future research options. Planned Outputs • A workshop of key experts, managers and external stakeholders to build on the literature review, identify additional data sources and recommend research priorities; • A workshop report including a literature review to synthesise existing information, data and publications on the region in relation to wildlife aggregations, general ecology, oceanography and productivity; • Marine wildlife survey – given the need to cover a large spatial area (i.e. the CMR and the known aggregation area in a single day), the preferred method is for an aerial survey with two observers. We propose that the team mobilises from Esperance given proximity to the CMR and ability to refuel etc. A team of two (2) scientific observers will be included plus an opportunity for an additional observer. The research will involve five (5) days of aerial surveying over no more than a seven (7) day period. The project will investigate the occurrence and distribution of orcas both inside and outside the known aggregation area (including the Bremer CMR). • Analysis of existing acoustic data – Curtin University holds data from acoustic surveys and will interpret these data in the context of distinguishing the presence and distribution of orcas, other cetaceans and other biota. • Analysis of existing orca distribution data within the aggregation – Curtin University has previously collected data on visual sightings of orcas at the aggregation. These data will be the spatial and temporal distribution of orcas at the aggregation site. This has the capacity to identify key patterns in orca behaviour within the known aggregation area. • Collation of orca observations held by ecotourism operator Naturaliste Charter – this collation will provide the opportunity to determine how best to use these data and generate communication products given the collection of imagery. • Pelagic fish survey – an existing planned survey to the Bremer CMR will be extended to include the aggregation area to allow the diversity, abundance and biomass of pelagic sharks and fishes in the CMR and the aggregation area to be compared. This will allow a comparison of the relative richness of the known aggregation area to the CMR with respect to pelagic shark and fish abundance. • Hydrocarbon signals in squid - Preliminary investigation into whether hydrocarbon signals can be detected in squid as a first step in determining whether the wildlife aggregation may be supported by hydrocarbon seeps. Murdoch University hold squid samples from the aggregation area that form the basis of this analysis. • Movement data to determine how adult orcas use the Bremer CMR and the aggregation area - tags will also be placed on at least three (3) adult orcas from the known aggregation site to clarify if those individual orcas are also transiting or using the Bremer CMR. • Knowledge exchange and communication outputs – each component of the project will produce materials for use by Parks Australia. Likely considerations are 3D fly-thru, animations, infographics, brochure, videos, articles. • Reporting outputs – a progress report focussing on completed field work and preliminary results will be produced followed by a final synthesis report.