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 and the Australian Ocean Data Network catalogue (

  • 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 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 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 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 of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Project E1 - "Guidelines for analysis of cumulative impacts and risks to the Great Barrier Reef". No raw data products are anticipated for this project. -------------------- The project will develop guidance for the analysis of cumulative impacts and risks to the environmental, social and economic values of the GBR. The project will use existing information to develop guidance for use by GBRMPA, DoEE, the Queensland Government and proponents of future development proposals. The project will build on the work undertaken in the GBR Strategic Assessment and support works undertaken under the Reef 2050 plan. The guidance will provide a practical science-based approach to assessment of cumulative risks to the Reef. Research will focus on providing a general and repeatable approach to be applied at the whole-of-reef scale (to meet planning, assessment and reporting requirements of the GBRMPA) and also at the development-site-scale (to meet the environmental assessment requirements of the GBRMPA and future proponents). The guidance will be developed in close collaboration with the GBRMPA and DoEE to ensure it is practical and compatible with relevant legislation and policy applicable to proposed actions within the GBR. The project will include a case study focused on attributing impacts of pressures and their cumulative impacts on shallow-water coral reefs of eastern Australia (including cumulative impacts for the whole-of-GBR). It will also examine how this could be applied to shallow temperate reefs follow recent risk assessments conducted in NSW. Research is primarily designed to meet the specific needs of GBRMPA and future proponents. NSW DPI, QLD Government and Parks Australia, may also benefit from the case study and insights to assessment of cumulative impacts. Planned Outputs • Case Study Report on GBR & Coral Sea reefs pressure analysis. • Final report - guidance for analysis of cumulative impacts and risk

  • This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Project E3 - "Microplastics in the Australian marine environment". No data outputs are expected for this project. -------------------- A literature review will firstly identify key marine microplastics research and policy development internationally, with a focus on research that is contextual to microplastics in the Australian marine environment From this literature review, an options paper will be developed to explore the most feasible and impactful policy approaches for the Australian context to reduce both intentionally added and not intentionally added microplastics in the marine environment (it would be beneficial to understand the policy options that can address both categories of microplastics because the options are different). These two reports would form the basis of a one day workshop that will draw together policy-makers, researchers and relevant industry peak bodies to discuss and recommend policy and other options to limit the release / impact of microplastics in the environment. A workshop report will be drafted to summarise findings, recommendations, and next steps (including identifying gaps in both science and policy will inform any future work required). The report will provide evidence to underpin the development of national policy aimed at reducing microplastic pollution, including by identifying priority actions to deliver Australia’s 2018 National Waste Policy .