University of Queensland to Create New Coral Reef Protection Tool

University of Queensland (UQ) researchers are developing a web-based management program capable of mapping ocean water pollution almost as it happens.

The program, funded by the Coral Research and Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP) an initiative of the G20, will identify near-real-time threats to reef systems, providing conservation managers with the crucial information they need to better protect coral reefs.

The project is a collaboration between Dr Amelia Wenger from UQ’s School of the Environment and the Wildlife Conservation Society – along with Associate Professor Simon Albert and Dr Nick Hutley from UQ’s School of Civil Engineering.

“Water pollution from land-based activities is now the biggest threat for more than 30% of the world’s coral reefs,” Dr Wenger said. “It affects the food, health, livelihood, and economic opportunities for millions of people.”

“Current monitoring tools only identify pollution sources within a watershed and the amount of pollution that reaches the coast. They don’t indicate which reefs are most at risk or where pollution comes from, making it very hard to figure out where to concentrate protection efforts.”

Dr Wenger said the UQ-developed product would be an open-access, almost real-time management program that allows users to map pollution, identify coral reefs at risk, and determine the management effort needed to protect coral reefs.

“We’ll provide decision-makers, organisations, coral reef scientists, and community scientists with the missing link to implement pollution management programs that have the greatest benefit to vulnerable coral reefs.”

“Creating this mapping tool is an exciting research opportunity, but it will also be a game changer for protecting coral reefs from water pollution,” she added.

Several groups in coral reef countries across the world are already lined up to use the program.

The UQ research project has been awarded A$1.74 million in funding from CORDAP’s Coral Accelerator Program, designed to fast-track research and development solutions to save the world’s coral reefs.