The overall objective of this project was to contribute to a blue-print for a sustained national environmental monitoring strategy for monitoring biodiversity in the Commonwealth Marine Areas. The approach would apply to Key Ecological Features (KEFs) and the Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR) Network, focusing initially on the Southeast Marine Region. CMRs and KEFs are large, remote and poorly known, so this project focussed on identifying flexible, statistically robust approaches to survey design and data collection that could result in comprehensive descriptions of the surveyed area and at the same time provide a statistical baseline for future repeat surveys in the same area. Given the conservation status and values of these areas, non-destructive sampling tools were prioritized, including remote sensing using acoustics (e.g. multibeam) that provide information on seafloor characteristics (bathymetry, hardness and texture), and direct observation using video and camera stills, taken by towed units, autonomous units or baited units. The final report is of necessity highly technical, reporting on the design and analytical issues addressed by this project. This executive summary is designed to provide an overview of the project and highlight the key findings relevant to policy makers and managers, omitting most of the technical detail. Readers interested in technical detail are referred to the main body of this report or the many research papers resulting from this work that are listed at the end of this summary.

Three field programs were undertaken. The largest survey was for the Flinders Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR) located offshore, northeast of Tasmania. This provided a baseline of the continental shelf, in the multiple use zone of this reserve, on which future monitoring can be built, and provides an initial characterization of the upper slope areas in the same zone of this CMR. A smaller survey targeted at known shelf reefs features in the Solitary Islands Marine Park (SIMP) and Solitary Islands Marine Reserve (SIMR) was designed to address specific sampling issues including: extending State-based research to this Commonwealth KEF, comparing autonomous and towed platforms for capturing video imagery, and examining statistical issues associated with the use of baited underwater remote videos (BRUVs). The third survey in the KEF east of the Houtman-Abrolhos islands was an exploratory survey designed to identify whether coral-kelp and other shelf reef communities in the State MPA extended into this KEF, and explore whether seabird diet could be used as a reliable indicator of pelagic ecosystem health.


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