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Parks Victoria Projects

Parks Victoria has aimed to tackle some of the significant management challenges of its marine protected areas (MPAs) and has established extensive marine research and monitoring programs throughout the areas. These challenges include improving the baseline knowledge as well as addressing questions in relation to the management of the MPAs. 

Parks Victoria has put in place the Signs of Healthy Parks (SHP) monitoring program in order to ensure systematic, robust and integrated ecological monitoring across these protected areas. This new monitoring program builds on Parks Victoria’s Conservation Action Planning process by using a range of environmental indicators in order to gain a better understanding of the health of protected areas.  All of the data collected through these monitoring programs is used to gain a better understanding of the most effective ways to manage protected areas. 

The program focused on monitoring Victoria’s MPAs in now being expanded and the SHP updated. Doing this allows the creation of new partnerships to further collaborate and improve the monitoring and assessment of these areas in the future. 

Parks Victoria has reached out to Deakin University to trial a new monitoring approach in the Point Addis Marine National Park, as well as adding the existing monitoring that has been implemented on subtidal and intertidal reef habitats long-term.

 

Aims

To create a targeted monitoring program for the Point Addis Marine National Park based on key conservation, management and monitoring objectives established for the park, used as a preliminary model to be expanded to a state-wide MPA monitoring program. 

Particular objectives:

  • Compiling seabed bathymetry data to assist in characterisation of the seabed and to develop full coverage maps of the Point Addis MNP and adjacent waters.

 

  • Implementation of  Reef Life Survey (RLS) methods at existing Subtidal Reef Monitoring Program sites in order to compare the abundance and diversity of fish, mobile invertebrates and canopy-forming algae over time, adding to existing time series.

 

  • Implementation of a Baited Remote Underwater Video survey (BRUVS) of fish assemblages within and adjacent to the MNP to compare the abundance and diversity of fish populations.

 

  • Implementation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle surveys for the intertidal reef platform to assess the coverage of the dominant habitat-forming alga.

 

  • Use standardised fishery stock assessment methods to assess the population of the Southern Rock lobster.

 

  • Use video and still images from towed video surveys to develop and implement surveys on reef and soft sediment communities deeper than 10 metres and draft standard operating procedures.

 

Results

  • Canopy-forming brown algae has experienced a dramatic decline in 2012/13 at SRMP sites and has yet to recover. This decline is due to the loss of the previously dominant common kelp (Ecklonia radiata) which has further decreased (regional average 0.75 % cover in 2017, none recorded in 2018) for SRMP sites. Towed video surveys have indicated a persistence of Ecklonia radiata in deeper sections of the park between 2013-2018.

 

  • Canopy-forming algae of other species were found to be in either fair or good condition, however small increases in these species haven’t compensated for the loss of kelp.

 

  • Towed video collecting downward-facing still imagery was successfully implemented to understand community structure throughout the MNP, this allows high taxonomic resolution and extensive spatial coverage of the area.

 

  • Dominant biota were found to have clear boundaries in relation to depth. Foliose brown algae was found in large amounts in shallow areas of less than 25 metres, deeper water was dominated by red algae, and sessile invertebrates were found in waters deeper than 35 metres.

 

  • The structure of the community was similar in both 2017 and 2018. A healthy abundance of all major mobile fish species was recorded

 

  • Many different communities of fish species were found to merge in the deeper mesophotic reefs which have been understudied in the past. High species richness was also discovered in these areas.

 

  • A significant decline in the Black-lipped Abalone (Haliotis rubra) and Turban Shell (Lunella undulata), both key mobile invertebrates, has been recorded since 2006. This sudden decline is below the lower limit for acceptable change.

 

  • Independent surveys of Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) populations which were conducted by fisheries recorded clear trends in relation to the effect protection has on abundance. The surveys were conducted within and adjacent to the Point Addis Marine National Park and show that the abundance within the MPA was over 3.5 times that of outside the MPA. The lobsters found inside were also larger on average, around 4.5 times the number of legal sized lobsters.

 

  • Between 2005-2012 the cover of Neptune’s Necklace (Hormosira banksii) was maintained just above 42% which is at the lower limit of acceptable change. In 2013 however, the numbers dropped below this threshold but were able to be recovered in 2018 and 2019.

 

  • Sub-centimetre resolution imagery across the entire intertidal platform (an area of over 21,000 m2) was successfully accomplished using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle surveys. These surveys allowed for habitat metrics, full platform estimates and patch size which helped in estimating the coverage of Neptune’s Necklace (Hormosira banksii).

 

Implications

  • As a result of this study key findings of the distribution and functioning of intertidal, subtidal and mesophotic habitats within Point Addis Marine National Park were uncovered. We now have the framework in place to expand the monitoring programs further across many MPAs.

 

  • Existing intertidal monitoring programs as well as the addition of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle surveys allows for full-platform imagery and topographic coverage to be achieved. These two programs also have the potential for more effective ground monitoring programs which can be used to ensure observations recorded as accurately representative.

 

  • As the abundance of Southern Rock Lobster is much greater within Point Addis Marine National Park compared to the surrounding area the results of the study will act as a baseline for further studies in the future. Understanding the population density when  documenting changes within this MNP will help to assess the ways in which the population responds to protection, recruitment and a changing climate through time.

 

  • This study has allowed fish communities to be surveying deeper than regular diver depths of around 20 metres within Point Addis Marine National Park. Fish species were able to be observed all the way down to the full 55 metres of the parks due to the addition of the Baited Remote Underwater Video survey (BRUVS). This increased the amount of species that could be observed by 48% compared to surveys completed with divers only.

To learn more about Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS) click here.

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