This report details the collation of all of the existing Australian continental shelf mapping data, methods used for reef habitat mapping and classification, and documentation of the spatial data products. It presents summary statistics of the distribution and extent of mapping surveys conducted on the continental shelf. The collation of these data has generated a valuable understanding of the distribution and extent of this key habitat around Australia, as well as a quantitative description of the current extent, nature and spatial location of mapping programs in shelf waters. The latter component both informs our understanding of the significant gaps in our current knowledge, and provides ready access to existing mapping data from which more detailed local scale maps can be generated from individual QGIS files will can be downloaded from the Australian Online Data Network (AODN).
The project has made significant inroads towards building collaboration across agencies to share habitat mapping data for the public good, as well as furthering discussions on mechanisms to making data more widely available. We have made a number of recommendations in this report relating to the need for data standards, central data storage, and tools for data visualisation. All of these recommendations are readily achievable, and discussions are progressing on all fronts, including visualisation of much of the data collated through this project by the AODN via its SeaMap Australia project (in development).
Successful adoption of the recommendations will significantly enhance the planning process for future surveys across all jurisdictions and management needs, as well as the uptake of such information into future spatial management. Critically, if the CMR network is to form the backbone of a national integrated monitoring program that includes shelf waters, these processes, and the information generated by appropriately targeted surveys, are going to be essential to underpin planning of biological surveys to ensure they are regionally relevant and representative of important habitat features.