The project provides long-term quantitative data on coral reefs spanning much of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Each year, information is gathered on corals, algae, reef fishes from 48 reefs and Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are surveyed on about 100 reefs.
The Long-term Monitoring Project is designed to detect changes in reef communities over time at a regional scale. In this context, reefs in a region are those that lie in one of three of three positions across the continental shelf (inshore, mid-shelf, outer shelf) within one band of latitude (a sector).
Surveys by the Long-term Monitoring team involve three tasks; manta tow surveys for crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) and reef-wide coral cover (broadscale surveys), surveys of sessile benthic organisms using video and visual counts of reef fishes. Broadscale surveys cover reefs in 11 sectors. Reefs in six of the sectors are surveyed intensively. Outcomes: More informed management of issues concerning coral reefs within the GBRMP by documenting the impact of natural disturbances on fish and coral communities.
Detection of unusual trends at reef and/or regional scales, including COT outbreaks and coral bleaching, which may indicate need for response and/or forewarn of important change.
Accumulation of standardised long-term data that can be used in the future to detect large-scale change from chronic stressors including climate change.