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Intertidal reef monitoring

An Intertidal reef monitoring program (IRMP) was established in 2003 at: Point Danger, Barwon Bluff, Mushroom Reef, Point Cooke, Jawbone and Ricketts Point marine sanctuaries.  The program has expanded to include Point Addis, Bunurong and Port Phillip Heads Marine National Parks and Merri Marine Sanctuary.

The IRMP began with the aim to track changes invertebrates and macroalgae abundances due to human use, including trampling and fossicking, of the reef platforms.  The aims of the program have expanded to investigate biodiversity, climate change effects and introduced marine species.

The results provide Parks Victoria with information regarding the status of natural values and threatening processes, and the magnitude of trends through time. With this information, Parks Victoria can make informed decisions about management priorities and responses.

Methods summary

The monitoring methods involve surveying a single reef during a single low tide, targeting the most common reef type at each intertidal reef (Hart and Edmunds 2005 PDF, 1.3MB). The survey is conducted along transects running from the high to the low shore. The density of mobile invertebrates and the percentage cover of macroalgae and aggregated non-mobile invertebrates are surveyed within quadrats along the transects (Hart and Edmunds 2005 PDF, 1.3MB).

Sites are surveyed in April/May every year.

Current Results

The University of Melbourne conducted a preliminary analysis of the data collected prior to 2007 and compared sites within MPAs with similar sites (reference sites) outside the MPAs.  The results were limited because only two surveys per site were available at the time, there was no data before declaration and the data sets were small.  The analysis could not detect a difference in species richness between MPAs and reference sites.  It was also difficult to detect any differences in species abundance between sites.

A separate, more recent research project by the University of Melbourne found that some limpet species were significantly larger in MPAs compared to non-MPA sites.  Previous national and international studies have shown that it can take well over a decade after declaration before changes in species size and abundance in MPAs can be detected.

A targeted analysis of monitoring data in relation to conservation outcomes for each marine national park and sanctuary will be carried out.