Project 2.3 'Monitoring the health of Torres Strait coral reefs'

Project 2.3 'Monitoring the health of Torres Strait coral reefs'

The reefs of Torres Strait are threatened by a variety of local and global agents: notably climate change (widespread coral bleaching was recorded for the first time in 2010), but also by the coral feeding crown-of-thorns starfish and increasing levels of coral diseases.

This project involves a detailed biodiversity assessment of coral communities on selected reefs to bridge a critical gap in knowledge of “What is out there?”, “What is unique?” and “What is their relationship to fisheries and other resources?”. This and other information will be used to select sites for monitoring to look for changes in the condition of coral reefs in the Torres Strait, with the intention that Torres Strait Management Authority (TSRA) employees will gain experience to be able to be able to continue the monitoring and reporting and adapt the program in response to changing needs and threats.

As part of this project, an early warning system will be established for coral bleaching in the Torres Strait. This will give the TSRA, communities, industry and other government agencies the ability to predict, prepare for and respond to coral bleaching. Resources can be prioritised and mobilised to adequately quantify bleaching impacts. Communities and industry in high risk areas can prepare and implement contingency plans. Early warning will also enable the TSRA to be in charge of timely information to feed back into the community and key stakeholders (including government) about the extent and severity of bleaching and address concerns.

The priority objectives for the first year of research are:

  1. Conduct a detailed biodiversity assessment of coral reefs in the Torres Strait involving TSRA rangers and synthesise with local knowledge and existing data on Torres Strait reefs. This will form the basis for planning the on-going monitoring program.
  2. Review and establish interim bleaching thresholds for the Torres Strait.
  3. Select sites for temperature loggers and real-time observing stations. Deploy loggers with TSRA rangers and develop logger exchange protocols. Build and install one real-time observing station.
  4. Acquire and process satellite data for the Torres Strait region, generating long-term climatologies for the region. Prepare ‘current conditions and forecast’ summaries and for the Torres Strait region and update monthly.

Project objectives at a glance

  • Improved knowledge of Torres Strait coral reefs, their value to fisheries and other major resources.
  • Essential data layers to enable future Marine Protected Area planning and resource use allocation to be undertaken.
  • Improved knowledge and responses of Torres Strait reefs to thermal stress.
  • Ability to predict, prepare and respond to challenges that arise from major changes to coral reef ecosystems, especially bleaching.
  • Ability for the Torres Strait Regional Authority to be the source of timely and accurate information which will build trust and credibility with communities who crave to know what is going on during and after bleaching disturbances.
  • Torres Strait Ranger capacity in diving, monitoring coral reefs and in interpreting changes.  Ability to continue the program in subsequent years and adapt it in response to any new threats or conditions.
  • Safer boating with accurate real-time observations of marine weather and tide conditions.

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

Project Factsheet     Project Factsheet for the Torres Strait community

Technical Reports

Preliminary report on surveys of biodiversity of fishes and corals in Torres Strait

Project Updates

See May 2012 Project Highlights here.


Link to the Project 2.3 homepage on e-Atlas



Project Duration: 
1 Jul 2011 to 31 Dec 2014


Project People

Project Outputs