Research Programs

The NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub research program is structured around three Themes with 38 research projects organised around twelve Research Programs. The research concentrates on three geographic nodes: the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, Torres Strait, and the Wet Tropics Rainforests.

Theme 1: 'Assessing Ecosystem Condition and Trend'

A clear understanding of the ecological condition and trends of environmental assets of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and the Wet Tropics rainforests is fundamental to ecologically sustainable use of those assets by industry and communities, support by appropriate management and policy settings. Theme 1 is comprised of three inter-related Programs, each of which concentrates on a specific component of North Queensland’s natural and cultural heritage, and delivers reports on the condition and trend of key ecosystems and natural living resources.

Program 1 'Historical and current condition of the Great Barrier Reef'
Program 2 'Natural Resources of the Torres Strait land and sea'
Program 3 'Condition and trends of North Queensland rainforests'

Theme 2: 'Understanding Ecosystem Function and Cumulative Pressures'
Theme 2 builds on research undertaken through the MTSRF and other programs that have identified many of the primary risks and threats to the environmental assets of North Queensland. These pressures do not occur in isolation to each other and it is clear that a greater understanding of the cumulative and synergistic impact of these pressures is required for improved management. These pressures are not static, therefore predicting and preparing for change is a significant challenge for environmental decisions makers charged with stewardship of Queensland’s natural environment. Changing climates, extreme natural events, changes in natural resource use and population growth are some of the pressures facing these ecosystems. Theme 2 is comprised of four Programs that will increase the understanding of ecosystem function and the impact of synergistic and cumulative pressures on the system. This understanding is essential in developing effective management responses that promote ecosystem resilience.

Program 4 'Water quality of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait'
Program 5 'Cumulative impacts on benthic biodiversity'
Program 6 'Movements and habitat use by marine apex predators'
Program 7 'Threats to rainforest health'

Theme 3: 'Managing for Resilient Tropical Systems'
Research undertaken within Theme 3 will provide knowledge and options to assist key decision makers in government, industry and the community in managing the complex ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics rainforest (including the World Heritage Area) and Torres Strait. Theme 3 draws on the assessment of ecological condition and trends undertaken in Theme 1 and the improved understanding of ecosystem function and cumulative pressures from Theme 2. Theme 3 will provide tools and information for evidence-based decision making that address the pressures and sustains resilient ecological, social and economic systems.

As the NERP TE Hub research activities will span several years, the Annual Work Plan is the key document that defines, justifies, budgets for and schedules activities on an annual basis. It relates to the Hub’s Multi-Year Research Plan which broadly describes the scope of the research work program over four years (July 2011 to December 2014).

The success of the NERP TE Hub will, in part, be due to how information developed during the life of the Hub helps to facilitate real improvements in sustaining the ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and the wet tropical rainforest regions. Accordingly, the Hub activities identified above will be supported by a substantial knowledge brokering, communication and engagement framework. There are two primary outputs for knowledge brokering and communication. The first is the establishment and maintenance of a research user engagement framework and the second is a suite of communication products and reporting tools including web-based communication, technical reports, newsletters, email updates and peer-reviewed publications. These activities form Program 13 of the NERP TE Hub’s overall Research Program.


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