This theme details the condition of the marine environment; the existing impacts of fisheries, oil and gas extraction and coastal development, and the potential impacts of climate change; and issues around marine management.
In previous SoE reports, information related to the marine environment was combined with coastal issues under one theme: ‘Coasts and oceans’. In SoE 2011, ‘Marine environment’ and ‘Coasts’ are two separate, but related, chapters.
This chapter reports on the state of our vast system of marine waters and seabed. The present-day condition and trends for marine ecosystems, biodiversity and ecological health over the period 2005 to 2010 are assessed and reported in a standardised report-card system (assessment summaries)…The chapter also examines the pressures for change that marine systems are experiencing and the risks they face in the near future. Some further important aspects of the marine environment are described and reported in Chapter 2: Drivers, Chapter 8: Biodiversity and Chapter 11: Coasts. The state of the waters of Australia’s Antarctic Territory is reported in Chapter 7: Antarctic environment. (SoE 2011, 6 Marine Environment - 1.6 In this chapter)
- The overall condition of the Australian marine environment is good.
- Areas near the coast are suffering.
- There are significant existing impacts on the oceans caused by human activities.
- An extended continental shelf has been granted.
- The ocean climate is changing and we need to prepare to adapt.
- Our understanding of major aspects of our unique biodiversity is limited.
- The lack of a nationally integrated approach inhibits effective marine management.
For more details see SoE 2011 - Marine environment: Key findings
NB: this report covered Marine in the Coasts and Oceans chapter
- Australia still does not have a comprehensive, nationally consistent system for measuring the condition and trends of its coasts and ocean ecosystems and the key resources they support.
- While still uncertain, the current forecasts of climate change suggest that increasing ocean temperatures will cause major impacts on coral reefs and that changing ocean circulation patterns are likely to affect cold water, and thus planning for adaptation to climate variability should be a priority.
- Because Australian marine ecosystems remain at risk from exotic species being brought into Australian waters on ships’ hulls and discharged in ballast water, measures to restrict transfer must continue both internationally and domestically.
- Trends in the status of fisheries’ resources and in the bycatch are negative, and efforts to reverse these trends, such as improving management plans and introducing environmental management systems, should be enhanced and then communicated to the public to ensure progress is measured and evaluated.
- While there are no surprises or new issues since 2001, the need to resolve existing problems remains as strong as ever in order to stem the slow decline of environmental quality.
For more details see SoE 2006 - Coasts and Oceans: Key points
- Australia State of the Environment 2011: Chapter 6. Marine Environment
- Australia State of the Environment 2011: In Brief
- Supplementary products
- Australia's coral reefs in a changing ocean (PDF - 295 KB) | (Word - 552 KB)
In the past two decades severe coral bleaching on Australian reefs were mainly confined to the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs at low latitudes (e.g. Scott Reef), however, recently the first extensive bleaching events have occurred around Ningaloo, Lord Howe Island, Houtman Abrolhos and Rottnest Island. As Australia moves into a high-CO2 era, ocean warming and acidification are predicted to continue from low to high latitudes. The medium to long-term projections indicate that the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events will continue to increase, accompanied by progressive ocean acidification.
- Factors potentially affecting the resilience of temperate marine populations (PDF - 844 KB) | (Word - 1,421 KB)
Six main categories of factors have the potential to influence population resilience of fish species; these are climate change, fishing, coastal development, introduced marine pests, infectious diseases and the socio-economic influences associated with fishery management. Four different case studies of Australian commercial fish stocks; western rock lobster, southern rock lobster, eastern gemfish and tiger flathead; are used to provide a contrast to marine population resilience.
- National marine condition assessment decision model and workshops (PDF - 424 KB) | (Word - 276 KB)
In the absence of strong regional or national indicator datasets, and to limit the bias inherent in a narrow information base, the SoE 2011 process adopted an expert elicitation approach to assess the condition and trends of Australia’s marine environment. A select representative group of marine experts from various disciplines were engaged for a series of assessment workshops. The decision model, grading system and procedures are described. The overview results of the six assessment parameters for the five marine bioregions are presented.
- National marine condition assessment workshop: east region results (Xls - 93 KB)
- National marine condition assessment workshop: national summary results (Xls - 125 KB)
- National marine condition assessment workshop: north region results (Xls - 113 KB)
- National marine condition assessment workshop: north-west region results (Xls - 124 KB)
- National marine condition assessment workshop: south-east region results (Xls - 122 KB)
- National marine condition assessment workshop: south-west region results (Xls - 113 KB)
- Phytoplankton dynamics in shelf waters around Australia (PDF - 2,051 KB) | (Word - 10,771 KB)
A comprehensive summary of phytoplankton bloom occurrences, both in-water and surface expressions, for five coastal sites around Australia based on earth observation data of up to eight years (2003-2010). Concentrations in chlorophyll-a (CHL), a widely-used measure of algal biomass, were estimated for each site from the NASA-MODIS (Aqua) ocean colour sensor. Surface algal bloom expressions, likely composed of different phytoplankton species than the in-water algal blooms, were mapped by the ESA-MERIS (Envisat) ocean colour sensor. Time-series of satellite-derived CHL and surface bloom expressions are presented and discussed for the five reporting regions. Results show that the phytoplankton biomass varies in its cycle and amplitude depending on the Australian continental shelf region considered.
- The resilience of the nature-based tourism system on Australia's Great Barrier Reef (PDF - 764 KB) | (Word - 2,674 KB)
Factors that affect the resilience of the nature-based tourism system on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef include climate change and the sediments, nutrients, and pesticides from agriculture and coastal development. The lifestyle values of enterprise owners and staff are significant predictors of enterprise resilience to crises and change. Higher lifestyle values are also associated with a higher level of enterprise support for reef conservation, and a greater level of participation in reef conservation activities.
- Vulnerability and status of marine fishes for the Australian State of Environment report 2011–temperate species (PDF - 1,443 KB) | (Word - 3,484 KB)
An assessment of vulnerability were conducted on two species in the south-east corner of Australia: the red Morwong (Cheilodactylus fuscus), and the southern Maori wrasse (Ophthalomolepis lineolata). The red morwong, although locally abundant with high numbers of reproductive individuals, was classed as ‘Vulnerable’ because of its restricted spatial distribution. It is sensitive to climate change and local recreational fishing. This species responded rapidly to closure to fishing. The southern Maori wrasse is locally abundant, with high numbers of reproductive individuals, and its range extends longitudinally to Western Australia. Despite being landed in commercial numbers as bycatch, as well as landed locally by recreational fishers its vulnerability is low.
- Vulnerability and status of marine fishes for the Australian State of the Environment report 2011–tropical species (PDF - 1,120 KB) | (Word - 8,934 KB)
Assessments of vulnerability and population status were completed for two species of coral reef fishes: the redfin butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus ), and the leopard coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus). The inherent vulnerability to extinction for both species was considered Low, given their reasonably large geographic ranges and ability to utilise a wide range of different reef habitats. The current population status for both C. lunulatus and P. leopardus was considered Good, with no evidence of long-term, reef-wide declines in abundance. The two species (C. lunulatus and P. leopardus) are each facing distinct threats, due to habitat degradation (especially coral loss) and direct fisheries exploitation, respectively. Current fisheries for Plectropomus spp. on the Great Barrier Reef do appear to be sustainable, and populations exhibit considerable resilience. With the recent expansion of no-take marine reserves, populations on reefs closed to fishing have recovered very quickly. In contrast, C. lunulatus appears to have Poor population resilience, with no recovery observed >5 years after severe coral bleaching in the central Great Barrier Reef.
- Australia State of the Environment 2006: Chapter 6 Coasts and oceans
- Australia State of the Environment 2006 AT A GLANCE
- Coasts and oceans - Theme commentary
- Indigenous involvement in environmental and heritage management - Integrative commentary
- Progress in accessing environmental data and information - Integrative commentary
- The role of local government in environmental and heritage management - Integrative commentary
- The suburbanisation of coastal Australia - Integrative commentary
- A dying shame - Australian coastal freshwater lakes - Current or emerging issues paper
- Chemicals in the environment - Current or emerging issues paper
- Coastal water quality, Adelaide's port waterways - Current or emerging issues paper
- Coastal water quality, Western Australia's Peel-Harvey estuarine system - Current or emerging issues paper
- The coastal pollution halo - Current or emerging issues paper
- Data Reporting System - Theme: Coasts and oceans
- Australia State of the Environment 2001: Thematic findings - Coasts and oceans
- Key Findings Brochure
- Coasts and Oceans Theme Report
- Marine Disturbance in Parts of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone - Technical paper
- Environmental indicators for national state of the environment reporting: Estuaries and the Sea
- Australia State of the Environment 1996: Chapter 8 - Estuaries and the Sea
- Key Findings from the First Independent National Report
- Nutrients in Marine and Estuarine Environments - Technical paper
- Seagrasses of Australia - Technical paper
- Subtidal Macroalgal Assemblages in Temperate Australian Coastal Waters - Technical paper
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