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Long term marine ecology project

Main Project Information
Presented By Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness AND Sapphire Coast Marine Society
Goal Monitor the seasonal/annual changes in marine species diversity
Task Community members actively record marine species diversity
Where Merimbula, New South Wales Australia
Description

Australia’s south eastern coastline is home to an array of unique and fascinating marine life. These organisms have adapted and acclimatised to temperate (cold water) conditions. However, climate change modelling predicts that Australia’s surrounding oceans will warm by 1–2 ⁰C by 2070, with the south east coast of Australia expected to feel the greatest effects due to increased strength and penetration of the East Australian Current (EAC).

– the EAC pushes warm water from the tropics, i.e. around the Great Barrier Reef, southward into the temperate waters found along the south eastern coast. This strength varies in season–

As a consequence to this predicted increase in ocean temperatures, there is mounting evidence suggesting that the geographic range of tropical and temperature coastal fish species will shift to higher latitudes (in this case further South), in response to warming trends. For example, ongoing studies around a coastal town called Merimbula (37°S) have recorded over 50 species of tropical fish which are aided by the warmer water and stronger EAC during Summer/Autumn. It is only when the warm water recedes and cold water replaces it, do these tropical fish die. With the predicted changes, these tropical fish are expected to survive through winter and compete with temperate fish species.
In addition to this, structurally important and unique macroalgae (e.g. bull kelp Durvillea potatorum) are predicted to have dramatic temperate fish range shifts. Preferring temperate conditions, increased ocean temperatures are predicted to radically move macroalgae distribution poleward. Warm ocean temperatures influence the health of macroalgae, often leaving large populations vulnerable to disease and wave action. Macroalgae provides important habitats for a number of temperate fish and invertebrate species throughout their life cycles, with predicted poleward shifts, species that require macroalgae habitats will either adapt or follow macroalgae range shifts.
Acknowledging these predicted changes, community members are establishing a long term monitoring program to record any annual and seasonal changes in fish diversity and macroalgae health. This would also include recording sea surface temperature.

Acknowledging these predicted changes, community members are establishing a long term monitoring program to record any annual and seasonal changes in species diversity and macroalgae health. This would also include recording sea surface temperature.

AIMS

1.Establish a monitoring programme that will build valuable data, recording biodiversity and changes over time

2.Monitor annual and seasonal changes in fish and invertebrate diversity and macroalgae health

3.Create and maintain an ongoing training program that improves interested community members knowledge about local marine life and improve their identification skills

4.Create an identification/education guide of the target fish and invertebrate diversity and health indicators on macroalgae.

5.Establish frequent monitoring of nominated sites and expand the number of survey sites over time

6.Encourage university involvement and/or grants

METHODS

1)Timed snorkel: using a recording template (that will have a list of key fish), participants will note down any fish/invertbrate species they observed and an estimated abundance. They will also note down any macroalgae discolouration.

2)Un-timed snorkel/SCUBA: using a slate and waterproof paper, particpants will note down/photograph as many species as they can during their recreational snorkel/SCUBA dive.

3)Video footage: working with local fisheries, underwater video footage of offshore habitats (e.g. urchin barrens, rocky reefs) has been made available to the community working group.

QUESTIONS
Can't get to the location to help out? Then maybe you can help answer some of our projects questions (if you can, please join the project and follow the contact prompts);

1) What data should we be aiming to record;

- Species wise: Should we aim to create a total species list and record as much of the biodiversity as possible OR create a targeted species list that aims to record indicator species of fish, invertebrates and macroalgae?

- Health: What is the best way to record the health of macroalgae?

- Abiotic parameters: we have access to temperature data loggers, but what other parameters should we look to record? E.g. depth, water clarity, tide, swell height etc

New to working with underwater video footage has created a few questions:

2) What would be the best way to utilise the video footage ? Footage shows macroalgae and fish species inhabiting habitats at different depths. (NOTE: original thoughts was to take snapshots of the footage and overlay randomised dots/points over the image. Dots/points that are over macroalgae would be highlighted and those that aren’t over macroalgae would be left alone)

3) Is there an online tool or free software to analyse video footage?

4) What would be the best way to standardise video analysis? Note: video footage will be from the same sites taken at different times of the year.

How to Join

If you are from the far South Coast of NSW OR will be travelling to the area in the not too distant future, please visit the Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness and follow the prompts to contact details.
http://www.alcw.org.au/contact-us/

We will provide you with information about upcoming events and how you can be involved.

Website http://www.alcw.org.au/
Social Media
Required Gear

-snorkel and mask
-fins
-wetsuit (during winter months)
-towel
-sunscreen

Ideal Age Group Elementary school (6 - 10 years), Middle school (11 - 13 years), High school (14 - 17 years), College, Graduate students, Adults, Families
Spend the Time outdoors
Type of Activity At the beach, In oceans, streams, rivers, lakes
Tags citizen science, marine ecology, marine science
Project Updated 04/21/2017