Project 8.1 'Monitoring the ecological effects of the Great Barrier Reef zoning plan on mid and outer shelf reefs'

Project 8.1 'Monitoring the ecological effects of the Great Barrier Reef zoning plan on mid and outer shelf reefs'

Implementation of networks of protected areas is the single most widely advocated action to protect marine biodiversity; the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was one of the first and is one of the largest examples of such a network in the world. While some effects of marine protected areas can be seen rapidly, there are also long term changes that may develop over 1-2 decades. Surveys of the matched pairs of reefs during the term of the NERP Program will enable the longer-term effects of zoning to be assessed eight and ten years after the new zoning plan came into force.

This project aims to track dynamics of populations of target fish species on fished reefs compared with similar reefs that are closed to fishing in five regions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  This will also include by-catch species, such as reef sharks.

The project will also track indirect effects of protection from fishing in terms of populations of non-target fish species.  Since many exploited species are carnivorous, differences in their numbers may in turn affect the abundance of their prey, and potentially cause more extensive ‘trophic cascades’, as well as other community components that are related to resilience such as numbers of herbivorous fishes.

Lastly, the project will track potential ecosystem effects of protection from fishing, such as increased coral recruitment and coral cover due to increased herbivorous fish numbers, and reduced incidence of coral disease, due to lower numbers of coral-feeding butterflyfishes inside ‘no-take’ zones.

Project outputs at a glance

  • Provision of updated information to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian community about the developing effects of rezoning the Marine Park in 2004.
  • Contribution of updated information on the effects of the zoning for inclusion in the 2014 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report.
  • Scientific publications on the effects of a large network of marine protected areas.

Specific objectives and intended outputs of this Project are detailed in the NERP TE Hub Multi-Year Research Plan.

Project Factsheet


Link to the Project 8.1 homepage on e-Atlas


Project Duration: 
1 Jul 2011 to 31 Dec 2014


Project People