SURG members helping to unravel the controlling factors that drive the distribution of corals in the Solitary Islands.
Recently members from SURG (Ian Shaw and Bob Edgar) have been involved in a research program led by Dr Steve Dalton (SURG member), Dr Sander Scheffers and Assoc. Prof. Steve Smith (SURG member) that aims to historically date slow growing subtropical corals that are found off the northern NSW coast. Ian and Bob’s extensive knowledge of the reefs adjacent to Coffs Harbour was needed to locate large slow growing massive corals and they assisted in the coring the coral skeleton.
Using specifically developed coring equipment the dive team were able to core three coral colonies located adjacent to Split Solitary Island. Coral coring was done during rough conditions at depths greater than 10 metres, which made the drilling more difficult than usual. Generally, coral coring of massive corals are done in shallow calm tropical coral reefs where water pressure and conditions are not an issue. Ian was able to photograph the work and we will be able to use the shots to promote the research and use the coral images to monitor the coral through time.
These coral cores have been x-rayed at Lismore hospital and photographed under fluorescent and ultraviolet lights, which will enable the identification of yearly growth bands in the cores that will age the coral colonies. Geochemical analysis will be carried out on the cores using equipment housed at SCU and University of Queensland. If these samples provide good clear chronology additional coring will be carried out later this year. SURG members are contributing to project that hopes to provide a historical presentive of changing land-based activities adjacent to the Solitary Islands and determine how terrestrial discharge might affect reef communities in the future.