Influence of deep Great Barrier Reef research on the Blue Economy
November 09, 2015

Authors: Beaman, R.J.

Year: 2015

Publication: Australasian Hydrographic Symposium 2015, 4-6 November 2015. Australasian Hydrographic Society, Cairns, Australia


Deep Great Barrier Reef (GBR) research has developed rapidly in the past decade, driven by the extensive use of modern seabed mapping technologies, such as multibeam echosounders, sub-bottom profilers and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). This marine geology and ecology research originally started through analysing previous lidar and multibeam data collected for the safety of navigation in the GBR by the Royal Australian Navy for the Australian Hydrographic Service.

A series of serendipitous discoveries about drowned (or submerged) shelf-edge reefs, led to a significant voyage in 2007 by Australia’s Marine National Facility, RV Southern Surveyor, to study the evolution of drowned shelf edge reefs in the GBR, with implications for understanding abrupt climate change, coral reef response and modern deep-water benthic habitats. The success of this 2007 voyage laid the ground-work for additional expeditions, including the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Exp 325 GBR Environmental Changes voyage in 2010.

Together, these numerous research expeditions to the GBR have brought significant funds into Australia and regional centres through such items as: direct ship running costs; science/ship crew transport and accommodation costs; gear logistics and sample transport costs; research and equipment grants to universities; and PhD completion funds to universities. Indirect benefits include: the numerous scientific articles published about these deep-water habitats; information to reef managers to assist with ecosystem-based management; and education information for the public.

Additionally, ongoing collaboration with a multimedia production company in North Queensland, Biopixel, has involved providing the production partners with bathymetry datasets and scientific knowledge as part of marine documentaries being filmed on the GBR. These documentaries use advanced 3D visualisation of the seafloor to help explain natural history concepts, and thus bring the deep GBR to a wider audience than can be achieved through traditional scientific journals alone.

These numerous documentaries also bring significant funds into Australia and regional centres through direct costs such as: production/media staffing costs; transport and accommodation for staff; and the hire of vessels and equipment. Indirect benefits include the promotion of the GBR as the largest reef system on Earth that provides so much cultural, economic and social value to Australia, and to been seen as an important tourism destination with a positive future.

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