A TWO year study into Moreton Bay’s coral has found the extent of reefs virtually unchanged throughout the past 13 years despite floods and warmer-than-average weather.
The research was undertaken to update existing maps last compiled in 2004.
About 600 sites were examined in the past two years by researchers from the University of Queensland and Healthy Waterways and Catchments, with data collected by Reef Check Australia volunteers.
Reefs studied included those at Mud, Saint Helena, Green, King, Macleay, Goat and Peel Islands.
North Stradbroke’s Myora Reef was also probed as were areas stretching from Wellington Point to Coochiemudlo Island.
While the study’s findings were released less than a month ago, Reef Check Australia’s Jennifer Loder said further coral surveying could help for a better understanding of water quality.
She said corals were important indicators for waterway health because of their environmental sensitivity.
“Understanding reef extent and condition helps to ensure that collectively we can make the best decisions about how to look after these unique habitats and the life that depends on them," she said.
The Benthic Inventory of Reefal Areas of Inshore Moreton Bay report said it was unclear how climate change and local influences affected subtropical reef communities, with population growth likely to intensify pressure on reefs.
Up to 30 major sewerage and industrial wastewater treatment plants discharged into Moreton Bay, which increased nutrient levels, it said in the report.
The study recommended annual monitoring to assess reef conditions and repeat habitat mapping every five years.
Researcher at UQ’s Remote Sensing Research Centre, Dr Chris Roelfsema, said results had indicated no major change in reefal extent in the past 13 years.
Healthy Waterways and Catchments chief executive Julie McLellan said mapping data would help score the health of the region’s waterways in the upcoming Healthy Waterways and Catchments annual report card.
“This will help to evaluate the effectiveness of catchment-level natural resource management investments and support evaluation of natural resource management project outcomes,” Ms McLellan said.
The study was partially funded by the Redland City Council.
For more, visit Reef Check Australia here.