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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

18 July 2005

$2.5 million for marine and tropical scientific research projects


Research projects aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics World Heritage Area received a boost with the announcement of $2.5 million in funding by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell.

This is the first tranche of funding to be provided to support a new Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility in North Queensland.

The Australian Government will provide $40 million over the next five years for the new facility as part of its new $100 million Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) programme.

"The Australian Government’s commitment to these projects supports research into significant environmental challenges facing Australia," Senator Campbell said.

"It also represents the first step in a new phase of funding that will continue the work that has been undertaken in past years by the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) for the Great Barrier Reef and for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management."

The $2.5 million in funding will support a diversity of research including: assessment of dugong populations along the urban coast of the Great Barrier Reef using aerial surveys; measurement and modelling of the requirements of rainforest species and vegetation communities to examine the likely effect of changes in climate on their distributions; and completion of a large-scale, internationally innovative experiment measuring the effects of line fishing on the Great Barrier Reef. A full list of research projects is attached.

"These first projects, developed together with the CRCs, consolidate the excellent work done to date, and will help to ensure Australia retains its world-class capacity for targeted environmental research," Senator Campbell said.

The Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility will form part of the new Tropical Sciences and Innovation Precinct in North Queensland, forming a hub of marine and tropical sciences research in northern Australia.

An investment strategy for the MTSRF will be developed during 2005-06 to ensure that research funding for the next four years of the facility goes to the highest priority environmental research for the Great Barrier Reef and tropical rainforests in North Queensland.

Attached is a summary of transitional research projects for the marine and tropical science research facility.

Further information about the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) programme is available online at www.deh.gov.au/programs/cerf

Media contact:
Minister Campbell   Renae Stoikos   (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434


Transitional research projects for the marine and tropical science research facility

Completion of effects of line fishing experiment in the Great Barrier Reef

Completing a large scale, internationally innovative experiment using spatial and temporal closures to measure the impacts of fishing, including investigating the biodiversity and demographics of key target fish communities, measuring the rates at which fish stocks rebuild and examining the effectiveness of fishing closures in meeting conservation and fishery production objectives.

Assessment of dugong populations in the Great Barrier Reef region

Conducting a 5-yearly assessment of the dugong population using aerial survey along the urban coast of the Great Barrier Reef. The study will provide a robust estimate of the population, the sustainable level of anthropogenic harvest, and provide valuable input into the establishment and review of a range of management measures for dugong conservation.

Australia’s endemic dolphins in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area

Continuing work to model the characteristics and mapping critical habitat for the endemic Irrawaddy dolphin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, measuring the level of connection between isolated populations, and measuring the risks to each species.

Supporting monitoring the health of Great Barrier Reef ecosystems

Continuing to support scientists and the community to monitor the health of iconic Great Barrier Reef habitats (intertidal seagrass and coral reefs) to detect and measure human-induced environmental impacts (overfishing, aquatic pollution, climate change) on the Great Barrier Reef with the maximum lead time and certainty to allow time for government and communities to decide on appropriate responses.

Nearshore marine habitat and fisheries assessment

Completing work to investigate the links between near shore fisheries and habitats in river catchments and estuaries, and assessing the status of coastal marine habitats, to underpin risk assessments for catchment uses, and for coastal developments and activities, to improve their sustainability.

Maintaining expertise in tropical marine pest assessment and management

Continuing to develop marine pest assessment, monitoring and management strategies and the maintenance of a network of scientific expertise in marine pests for north Queensland to support rapid and integrated responses across agencies and jurisdictions.

Monitoring the effect of the new Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning plan

Establishing the baseline for studying the biological effect on coral reefs, developing a sampling design to assess the biological effects on inter-reefal habitats, and establishing the best social and economic variables to predict and monitor the effects of rezoning.

Modelling framework for research on impacts of nutrients on coral reefs

New work to model the impacts of coral bleaching, and other sources of coral death, on nutrient dynamics and coral reef ecosystem function to enable exploration of implications for a range of biophysical parameters and provide input to development of research and management priorities.

Rainforest canopies: where the biosphere meets the atmosphere

Completing a suite of research projects focussing on the tropical rainforest canopy to examine ecological and climatic drivers of insect diversity. The research will include investigating the role of insects and floral biology relating to canopy pollination in fragmented landscapes, and measuring rainforest carbon fluxes to understand the variation in ability of local rainforests to fix carbon in different seasons.

Impacts of climate change on rainforest ecosystems and biodiversity

Continuing to measure the climate and biophysical requirements of rainforest vegetation communities, and using these to model the effect of climate changes on distributions of rainforest plant species and communities.

Impacts of climate change on Australia’s rainforest marsupial folivores

Continuing to measure the factors influencing distribution of rainforest possum species and modelling their distribution to predict the effects of climate change on the distributions of species of possum and other marsupial folivores, many of which have limited geographical ranges and special habitat requirements.

Emerging diseases of amphibians in the wet tropics

New work to investigate new diseases affecting native frogs in the wet tropics region, particularly wasting syndromes affecting tree frogs, to understand their origin and effects on native frog populations.

Modelling and evaluating the effects of strategies for rainforest management

Completing work to build simulation models incorporating rainforest ecological processes and patterns and information on social activities and economic outcomes. These will enable agencies and communities to explore the likely outcomes of the options available for rainforest management, and will assist in optimising future research efforts by identifying the most crucial gaps in knowledge.

Identifying and mapping Indigenous Cultural Values of the Wet Tropics

Developing an overarching theoretical framework and methods to identify how the wet tropics are unique culturally, how cultural values in the area relate to similar environments around the world, and provide guidance on how cultural values should be identified, evaluated, protected and monitored. This will underpin work to identify and evaluate indigenous cultural values locally, assisting traditional owner groups to develop country-based management plans in a broader context.

Biodiversity values and landscape context in reforestation

Completing work to measure the effectiveness of different reforestation strategies in sustaining and restoring local terrestrial biodiversity and ecological process, including accounting for the effect of existing biological and physical attributes of the reforestation site. This will guide development and use of reforestation and restoration techniques in the wet tropics, and also enable the success of various options to be predicted and measured.

Sustainable roads, powerlines and walking tracks in the Wet tropics

Completing work to understand and measure the impacts of linear infrastructure on the biophysical attributes of different vegetation types and faunal groups of the wet tropics to enable development of best practice guides for construction and maintenance. The impacts include fragmentation, barriers to movement, weed and pest intrusion, road mortality, disturbance, heavy metal contamination and pollution, and erosion.

Seed dispersal: a threatened ecological process

Completing work to combine information about rainforest seed dispersal processes into simulation models to enable agencies and communities to explore and predict the consequences of changes in species abundance, and of management actions, for the composition, structure and ultimately distribution of rainforest vegetation types.

Sustainable practices in rainforest tourism and recreation

Completing work to measure the experiences, behaviour, and environmental impacts of visitors and recreational users in the wet tropics world heritage area, particularly their responses to the layout and design of settings and infrastructure for visitors and in presentation and dissemination of information.

Water regulation as an ecosystem service in Queensland’s wet tropics

Completing work to understand and measure the role of rainforests in regulating water flows from catchments, and to understand the dependence of these rainforests on local hydrological regimes. This will assist to document the water services provided by rainforests; evaluate the consequences of land use and climate change on catchment water yields; identify possible implications of changes in regional and local hydrology on the long-term survival and conservation prospects for rainforest vegetation types; and understand the role of floodplain forests of the coastal lowland in filtering and regulating water quality before it reaches the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

Commonwealth of Australia