The shallow reefs of Ningaloo make up one of the longest and most pristine fringing reefs in the world. The reefs extraordinary biodiversity includes over 200 coral and 500 fish species and is home to hundreds of other species including crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms and sponges. Corals and fish of the shallow reefs are highlighted in the Ningaloo Marine Parks Management Plan as important ecological values and as such are key research priorities for Ningaloo Outlook.
One of the objectives of the shallow reef research theme is to provide the data to support the management of coral and fish ecological values. The research will also gather new knowledge to better understand the ecological processes that are important in the structuring of reef flat and reef slope communities, and how this varies within the different management zones of the Ningaloo Marine Park. With the assistance of local community groups (e.g. Cape Conservation Group) the team are using a combination of diver based surveys and modelling techniques to assess the relative abundance and diversity of fishes, sharks and corals.
Approximately 70 sites have been surveyed each years since 2015 between Osprey and Jurabi. Findings from these surveys are confirming the importance of reef slope and reef flat habitats to many species of fish, sharks and invertebrates, as well as the role physical forcing (e.g. waves) plays in structuring these communities. Future work will focus on completing data analysis and wave modelling. The Shallow Reefs Research Team have also been collecting data on in-water and onshore marine debris levels at Ningaloo since 2016. You can find out more about what they are finding here.
The research team at CSIRO is being led by Experimental Scientist Damian Thomson.
A key element of the Ningaloo Outlook partnership is to provide training opportunities for future scientists. Anna Cresswell, our PhD Scholar for the shallow reef research theme, will be investigating the ecological processes that link herbivorous fish, coral recruitment and macroalgae.