SURG has begun developing protocols for the Environmental Trust Community Education grant. This grant is a community action blueprint to enhance estuarine habitat resilience. SURG members are undertaking in-water estuarine surveys to determine the presence of threatened and protected marine species and identify the critical habitat they rely upon.
The project involves the following:
- Seagrass cover, areas with complex habitats and deep holes are geo-referenced along four estuaries.
- Mini-baited underwater video is used to identify species that use these habitats during different seasons.
- Information collected is used to form the foundation of interpretive educational material to be displayed at high-use locations along the estuaries.
- Debris surveys and visual censuses are conducted in and adjacent to critical habitats to quantify local threats to critical habitats.
- Interpretive plaques are placed on estuary boardwalks with brochures and teaching material developed and made available to the wider community via volunteer groups and government websites.
The completion of the research project Health of coral communities in the Solitary Islands Marine Park was the biggest achievement for 2015 with a total of 12, 805 assessments of corals undertaken.
Click here for the full report. (10.7mb)
This 3 year project engaged trained volunteers using the Coral Health Chart developed by Coral Watch in conjunction with the University of Queensland. At various sites throughout the Solitary Islands Marine Park, volunteers assessed coral health using the standard protocol and provided medium term monitoring of coral health throughout the park.
Monitoring specified marine fish species - indicators of climate change, was conducted under the Caring for our Country - Community Action Grant. SURG volunteers surveyed sites throughout the marine park using a representative fish species list. This provided information indicating frequency of occurrence as well as relative abundance data that will be indicative of changing distributions of species as a result of events like climate change. The information generated will be added to a database curated by Southern Cross University thus linking it to a state wide program funded by NSW Coastal Management Authorities.
SURG members have been involved in research projects in the Solitary Islands Marine Park since 1985, some of which were:
- The compilation of a small booklet containing identification details and photographs of marine animals found in the local waters. Examples of nudibranchs, crustaceans and echinoderms were among those featured.
- Mapping eight major underwater habitats found around the islands in the Marine Park. This mapping was conducted before the formation of the Marine Park and the information collected using quadrat and line transect methods formed the basis of the early zoning plans for the Marine Reserve and then the Marine Park.
- Investigation into the phenomenon of coral bleaching. Tagged corals at a number of sites around the northern islands of the Marine Park were photographically monitored. Regular inspections of these corals plus random 30m transects of the sea bottom to determine coral density resulted in a wealth of information invaluable to researchers of the Marine Park.