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Marine surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003
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- Author / Creator
- Oxley, Will G; Ayling, Tony (A M); Cheal, Alistair J; Osborne, Kate
- The Australian Institute of Marine Science 2004
- Usage Rights
- This work is copyright. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part of this publication may be reproduced by any process, electronic or otherwise, without the specific written permission of the copyright owners. Neither may information be stored electronically in any form whatsoever without such permission.
- Full Abstract
- The Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve is located some 600 kilometres east of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) conducted fish, benthic, and bêche-de-mer surveys on Elizabeth Reef in the Reserve, 2–6 December 2003. A total of 111 species of coral were identified during this survey compared with the 122 identified by Done and Veron in 1981. The coral community at Elizabeth Reef was similar to that observed during previous surveys. The percent cover of hard coral was at a moderate level and consistent with a reef recovering from disturbance. At the time of survey no bleaching and very little crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) activity was observed. The percent cover of Acropora seen during this survey was lower than seen by Done in 1981, however the high disturbance regime, in combination with the distance from other reef systems, and the historic presence of COTS, s abundance of Acropora is likely to be a rare event. A total of 181 fish species were recorded during this survey: 61 of these species are new records for Elizabeth Reef, raising the number of species recorded on the reef to 311. Forty-five species represent new records for the Reserve. Comparisons between the most species rich fish genera at Elizabeth Reef in 1987 and 2003 showed that the species richness and species complement of dominant genera differed little after a 16-year gap in surveys. Black cod (Epinephelus daemelii) abundance was estimated at 4 cod/hectare during these surveys with no evidence that cod numbers had either increased or decreased since last surveyed in 1987, although direct abundance comparisons were not possible. The maximum black cod length recorded at Elizabeth Reef during 2003 surveys was 1.5m and this is around the maximum length recorded in Australia. High numbers of Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis) were observed at Elizabeth Reef, especially in the lagoon. Their size suggests the reef lagoon is an important nursery area for Galapagos sharks. The presence and behaviour of these sharks in the Reserve is very significant as this species is unlikely to be present at other Australian governed reef systems (excluding Lord Howe Island). This report represents the first published bêche-de-mer surveys in the Reserve. The outstanding observation was that the densities of H. whitmaei (nobilis) observed at Elizabeth Reef in two areas (133.3 ind ha–1) were higher than have been previously reported in other areas in Australia. Holothuria atra were also found in high densities, though in densities similar to many other areas in the Indo Pacific. The authors consider that the unique nature of the reserve provides compelling reasons why a high level of protection should be afforded to the biological communities of both reefs.
- Issued / Published
- Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland
- Subject (AGROVOC)
- Nature reserves; Marinating; surveys; species (taxa); surveying; Species; Reefs; Corals; Labridae; data collection
- Subject (GEMET)
- reef; survey; fish; fishing; coral; species; communications; science; sea; biodiversity
- Subject (Author)
- marine parks and reserves; Marine resources; Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve; fish survey; beche-de-mer; benthic animals; coral survey
- Australia; Pacific Ocean; Elizabeth Reef; Middleton Reef
- Repository ID