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1 Mar, 2012

New Project Set to Forecast Future of Great Barrier Reef

Australian Govt Bureau of Meteorology

29 February 2012 — The Great Barrier Reef is set to be seen in a whole new way through an innovative project that will provide for the Reef the kinds of products that the Bureau of Meteorology provides for weather.

This new project, called eReefs, will allow everyone to see what is happening today on the Reef and what is likely to happen in future. It will span the entire Reef from catchment to ocean, aid decision making and improve communication and reporting using pictures and maps.

“It is not currently possible to visualise, model, understand and communicate the whole of the Reef system due to its vast scale and complexity. eReefs will be world leading, applicable in Australia and for coral reefs and coastal environments globally,” said Dr John Schubert AO, Chair of the eReefs Project Board.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, and is extraordinary, ever changing and irreplaceable. However, Reef managers face ongoing challenges managing the Reef in the context of water quality, climate change, shipping, fishing and coastal development. eReefs will help decision-makers manage the Reef by providing integrated and interactive information at both a scale and detail that hasn’t been previously available. eReefs is also the first step in building comprehensive coastal information systems covering all of Australia.

The project will also bring the Reef to life for the Australian public and visitors. Through mobile technologies and customised web portals, eReefs will enable the public to interact with the Reef and contribute to the project, such as using technologies to learn about and report on fish, coral and other species they may see.

eReefs is a $25 million, five year collaboration that brings together corporate Australia (through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and its partner BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance), Australia’s leading operational and research agencies (the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science), the Science and Industry Endowment Fund and Reef Managers (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority). In addition, the Australian Government, through Caring for our Country’s Reef Rescue Program, has matched Queensland Government funding towards delivery of the first phase of the project, which will run until 2013.

“eReefs is an example of the impact that can be delivered by harnessing the breadth of Australia’s national innovation system,” said Dr Schubert, “By combining government commitment to Reef protection, world class science with investment from leading Australian businesses, eReefs demonstrates the value placed on our exquisite Reef and the power of collaboration for its protection and preservation.”

Over the next five years eReefs will build on “live” data from sensor networks developed and deployed by Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and will deliver outcomes such as expanded and improved monitoring data using the latest mobile and internet technologies; new and integrated models across paddock, catchment, estuary, Reef lagoon and ocean; an interactive visual picture of the Reef and its component parts, accessible to all. There will also be citizen science initiatives to engage the broader community on the health of the Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt welcomed the eReefs project. “eReefs provides marine managers with expanded, improved and finer-scale information on how land-based activities impact on the marine environment. This improves our understanding of the Reef’s health and the cumulative impact of pressures, which is essential for effective management decision making,” he said.