Final reports on MTSRF project activities over the life of the four-year MTSRF Research Programme (2006-2010). These reports are also listed under Unpublished Scientific and Technical Reports or MTSRF Project Milestone Reports.

Additional final projects reports will be made available as they are finalised.

Project 1.2.1(b) JCU Williams, S. (2010) ‘Biodiversity monitoring for climate change’
Final Report on Project Activities, June 2010. This document reports on fauna and weather station monitoring data collected as part of MTSRF Project 1.2.1 Extension (b). Microclimate data was collected from a region-wide network of 25 weather stations from 2006 to 2010. The data gained has been used to develop realistic estimates of microclimate exposure for the region and to identify cooler landscape ‘refugia’ and major microhabitat features that buffer exposure to extreme temperatures. This data has been used to evaluate vulnerability or resilience of species to extinction, evaluate the biodiversity values of climate change refugia, and improve niche models.

Project 1.2.1c CSIRO Pert, P. et al. (2010) A Prototype Report Card for the Status and Trends of Biodiversity, Soils and Landscapes of the Wet Tropics
This report card presents the results and recommendations of the Wet Tropics based project ‘Status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services: State of the Environment reporting and gap filling’ (MTSRF Project 1.2.1(c)). Presented here is a prototype indicator framework for the biodiversity, soils and landscape assets of the Wet Tropics, and preliminary results for their present condition based on expert opinion and the most recent available data. For each of these natural assets, the current status and trends are assessed, and priorities for natural resource management actions are identified. The report card also highlights information gaps, and makes recommendations for how these gaps should be filled.

Project 1.3.1 JCU McNamara, K. et al. (2010) Constructing the Torres Strait: Report on Policy, Media and Public Opinion
The Torres Strait region holds special significance in the protection of Indigenous Australian culture and land rights, but is also gaining visibility as a site of climate change impacts and adaptation. While the 1992 Australian High Court decision to grant Native Title to traditional owners on Mer Island is probably best known internationally and nationally, the Torres Strait has more recently gained media and policy visibility in relation to unusually large tides and other inundations linked to climate change. This report examines how the Torres Strait region is constructed and represented, largely in relation to climate change, in a variety of forums: policy and discussions, popular media and public opinion. While not denying the impacts of climate change in the region, this report aims to interrogate how the Torres Strait is constructed in certain ways, such as being ‘particularly’ vulnerable to climate processes. This report identifies how the above three realms offer differing representations of the region. Both media and policy representations for instance implicate severe climate change in the identity of the region and as such construct Islanders as ‘particularly’ vulnerable subjects with low adaptive capacity. On the other hand, the results from the public opinion survey present alternative constructions of the region, based around culture, people and community.

Project 1.3.1 JCU McNamara, K. et al. (2010) Documenting and Sharing the Seasonal Calendar for Erub Island, Torres Strait
Reading landscapes, seasons and environments has long been a tradition for Torres Strait Islanders through their close relationships with their islands and seas. MTSRF funded researchers worked with community Elders on Erub Island in the eastern group of islands in the Torres Strait to document the Elders’ knowledge of seasonal patterns, including winds, wet and dry seasons, and also patterns in plant, animal and bird life. This report examines and synthesises this knowledge. The information varies from details on the migration and nesting patterns of key totem birds, to the movement of the Tagai star constellation, to the onset of wind patterns indicating certain planting or fishing cycles. The importance of documenting and transferring such knowledge is that it begins the task of generating interest among the younger generation to identify seasonal and environmental indicators in their landscape. This ability of Islanders to identify indicators and ‘read’ their land and sea country becomes important in maintaining culture, livelihoods and their surrounding environment. To this end, the seasonal calendar, which was assembled from the knowledge of four Erub Island Elders, was also developed into a large wooden mural at the local primary school. The school’s students were involved in the creation and installation of the mural, and its contents will now form part of their teaching curriculum. It is hoped that by documenting, safeguarding and transferring this knowledge, it will remain alive and valuable.

Project 1.3.1 JCU McNamara, K. et al. (2010) Elders’ and Aunties’ Experiences of Climate on Erub Island, Torres Strait
There has been growing concern over the exposure of Torres Strait Islander communities to the impacts of climate change. Across the Torres Strait region, impacts have included inundation events, high tides, less predictable winds and ocean currents, an increase in disease vectors, the loss of cultural sites, and a reduction in freshwater supplies. Some of these direct and indirect impacts of climate change have been recorded in the scientific literature, but to date there is a paucity of documentation as to how the communities themselves have experienced these changes and impacts. These ‘experiences’ (of changes and/or impacts) might stem from Islanders’ memories, or from the present. This report documents and records Erub Island Elders’ and Aunties’ experiences of a changing climate, such as their memories of extreme weather events and historical environmental changes, to present day changes to their land and sea country.

Project 1.3.1 JCU McNamara, K. et al. (2010) Resilience in Knowledge: Unpacking Adaptation Strategies on Erub Island, Torres Strait
Torres Strait Islanders have long been managing their land and sea country. In this vein, they have also been adapting to changes in their local environments since time immoral. This report examines and synthesises knowledge from Elders and Aunties on Erub Island, as well as the voice and views of young Islanders, who shared past and present adaptation strategies for coping with environmental changes. It contains traditional knowledge, including actions and activities that have been employed to adapt to seasonal and climatic changes. This information can shed light on Erub Islanders’ ways of adapting to changes in the future.

Project 1.3.2 AIMS Evans-Illidge, E. et al. (2010) ‘Ecological Role and Potential Value of Sponges to Torres Strait’
Final Report on Project Activities, June 2010. Project 1.3.2 extends on work carried out through the CRC Torres Strait to establish farming protocols and best practice guidelines for growing the commercial bath sponge Coscinoderma matthewsi at Masig Island in Torres Strait. During the course of the MTSRF-funded research, researchers (a) studied the ecology and demography of sponges in Torres Strait, especially C. matthewsi, as a possible surrogate for ecosystem connectivity and health of benthic communities in Torres Strait; and (b) established a firmer knowledge base to underpin the sustainable environmental management of Torres Strait sponge framing. This document reports on outputs to date, including (a) the known distribution and abundance of sponges in Torres Strait at a range of spatial scales; (b) a demonstrated low incidence of disease in wild sponge populations; and (c) temporal trends in sponge demographics plus evidence of the success of existing farming and harvesting procotols.

Project 1.3.5 CSIRO Tawake, L. et al. (2010) Towards regional and community-scale reporting of marine ecosystem health in the Torres Strait
Currently there is no formal marine ecosystem health monitoring or reporting system in the Torres Strait. While some commercial fisheries are assessed and monitored in detail, much of this information is transmitted to regional management agencies. However, there is increasing awareness of the need to involve Torres Strait Islander communities in the dissemination and collection of ecosystem management and research information, and to establish an integrated system of marine ecosystem health reporting whcih is of relevance to agencies and communities. This report presents the findings of MTSRF Project 1.3.5 ‘Reporting Ecosystem Health in the Torres Strait’, which was established in 2006 to (a) identify potential marine ecosystem health indicators for Torres Strait that are relevant to regional and community-level stakeholders, and to calculate available data for those indicators; and (b) to develop potential monitoring and reporting frameworks and media for marine ecosystem health.

Project 2.5i.3 JCU Hughes, T. (2010) Final Milestone Report (June)
Final project report which describes achievements to date. Includes science summaries for (a) determining spatial connectivity of coral and Symbiodinium populations and potential for replenishment; (b) Identifying environmental drivers of coral disease and modelling links with thermal anomalies associated with climate change; (c) quantifying levels of herbivory and critical thresholds in macro-algal phase shifts; and (d) evaluating long-term recovery and resilience of reef fish communities to climate change.

Project 2.5ii.2 JCU Liddell, M. (2010) ‘Climate Change: Scaling from trees to ecosystems’
Final Report on Project Activities, June 2010. Project 2.5ii.2 set out to provide a detailed process-based understanding of the performance of lowland tropical rainforest in concert with climatic measurements, with a view to coupling this understanding with future climate scenarios provided by MTSRF Project 2.5ii.1 to predict possible influences of climate change on the Daintree lowland rainforest of far northern Queensland over the next century. This report includes summaries of outputs of each of the five key objectives of this project: (a) Atmospheric fluxes; (b) Plant physiology; (c) Fluxes of carbon and water; (d) flowering/fruiting phenology; and (e) Insect populations and biodiversity.

Project 2.5ii.3 CSIRO Hilbert, D. (2010) ‘Threats to ecosystems in the Wet Tropics due to climate change and implications for management’
Summary: This report summarises recent research that suggests several likely changes and threats to biodiversity and ecosystem processes in the Wet Tropics Bioregion, and briefly discusses the implication of these changes for management.

Project 2.6.2 CSIRO Lawson, T. et al. (2010) ‘Audit and prioritisation of physical barriers to fish passage in the Wet Tropics region’
Abstract: Barriers to fish passage, such as flood mitigation, drainage structures, and extensive road, rail and canerail networks, can have a significant impact on native fish assemblages. We identified artificial physical barriers in the Wet Tropics bioregion, Far North Queensland, Australia, through a desktop GIS analysis of the stream/river and transport networks. A total of 5,536 potential artificial, physical barriers to fish passage were identified in a stream network of 19,764 km at a scale of 1: 100 000. The Mulgrave (1,076) and Johnstone (1,069) basins contained the highest number of potential barriers, whilst most potential barriers comprised road crossings (66%) and cane rail crossings (18%). Due to the unavailability of consistent datasets at smaller scales, we have not identified artificial physical barriers smaller than 50 m. Hence it is very likely that the total number of potential barriers to fish passage in the region is many times higher. We subsequently prioritised the 5,536 potential barriers, to identify those barriers that will provide the greatest habitat value for native fish species when removed and/or mitigated. A total of 104 potential barriers were identified as high priority for rehabilitation, with the Daintree (32), Mossman (19) and Mulgrave (17) basins having the highest numbers. We recommend that the high priority status and attributes of these 104 barriers be verified on-ground, and that rehabilitation of barriers be experimentally examined as a management strategy to improve native fish movement and reduce invasive fish abundance in the Wet Tropics region.

Project 2.6.2 CSIRO Kroon, F. et al. (2011) ‘Using environmental variables to predict distribution and abundance of non-native fish in the Wet Tropics’

Project 3.7.5 CSIRO van Grieken, M. (2009) Review of socio-economic constraints to and incentives for the adoption of land use and management options for water quality improvement in the Tully-Murray catchment (Wet Tropics)
This report provides an economic assessment of instruments promoting adoption of land management practices by landholders for the Wet Tropics. Specifically, the objectives of this study are to (a) determine the private-economic consequences of management practice adoption, (b) determine the effectiveness of management practice adoption in reducing nutrient supply, and (c) assess the effectiveness of taxes and subsidies to promote the adoption of management practices.

Project 3.7.5 CSIRO Van Grieken, M. et al. (2010) ‘Implementation costs of agricultural management practices for water quality improvement in the Great Barrier Reef catchments’
A follow up to the report ‘Agricultural management practices for water quality improvement in the Great Barrier Reef catchments’, also by MTSRF Project 3.7.5 researchers. In this report, the CSIRO has analysed implementation costs and benefits for agricultural management practices, grouped into farming systems. In order to do so, they compare plot scale gross margins for the dominant agricultural production systems (sugarcane, grazing and banana cultivation) in the Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions of the Wet Tropics, Burdekin Dry Tropics and Mackay-Whitsundays. Where available, they present investment requirements for changing to improved farming systems (transaction costs are not captured within this project, however).

Project 3.7.7 CSIRO Kuhnert, P. et al. (2010) ‘Analysis and synthesis of information for reporting credible estimates of loads for compliance against targets and tracking trends in loads’
Final Report on Project Activities, June 2010. Quantifying the amount of sediment and nutrients (via a load) entering the Great Barrier Reef is a primary focus for water quality improvement plans that aim to halt or reverse the decline in reef health. Although substantial work has been undertaken in the literature to define a load under varying conditions and assumptions, the methods currently available do not adequately address all aspects of uncertainty surrounding the load estimate. This reduces the ability to usefully inform future monitoring activities and to report on the status of, or trends, in loads. This report looks at a Loads Regression Estimator as a methodology for accurately estimating sediment and nutrient loads.

Project 4.8.2 AIMS Cappo, M. et al. (2010) ‘The influence of zoning (closure to fishing) on fish communities of the shoals and reef bases of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: Results of repeated surveys of the southern banks and Cardwell shoals, and an overview with regional comparisons’
This report presents the results of repeated surveys of pairs of discrete ‘shoals’ off Cardwell in the north and on either end of the Capricorn shelf in the south of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We also provide coarse regional comparisons of these results with ‘snapshots’ of mean and median abundances from shoal pairs in five other regions obtained during the four years of this project.

Project 4.8.6 JCU Coghlan, A. and Prideaux, B. (2012) Reef Tourism Third Yearly Report. Patterns of reef tourism on the GBR, Tropical North Queensland and the Whitsundays. Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility, Cairns
Visitor surveys provide valuable marketing and management information on trends in tourism to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This third annual report highlights the results of this year’s surveys collected by partner tour operators at the GBR. A total of 2942 surveys were collected in 2009, bringing the total number of completed surveys to 7569 over the last three years.

Project 4.8.6(a) JCU Stoeckl, N. et al. (2010) Understanding the social and economic values of key marine species in the Great Barrier Reef: Final Report, June 2010, with a section focusing on marine turtles
Final Report on Project Activities, with a section focusing on marine turtles, June 2010. This final report overviews the results of MTSRF funded research aimed at identifying relative social and economic values of key marine species, including large fish around tourist facilities. A section of this report has also been dedicated to the socio-economic values of marine turtles in relation to scuba diving tourism in the Far Northern Section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Project 4.9.1 CSIRO Cullen-Unsworth, L. et al. (2010) Best practice and use of methods for the development of a series of cultural indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area: final project report
This report provides a discussion around best practice and use of methods for the cooperative development of a series of cultural indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). The indicators were derived through a project to develop a series of linked cultural and biophysical indicators for the WTWHA. In this context ‘linked cultural and biophysical indicators’ means cultural indicators that are linked to the Wet Tropics rainforest. These indicators outline why the WTWHA is so important to Rainforest Aboriginal people and provide some (limited) insight into how Rainforest Aboriginal peoples may have shaped the WTWHA into the rich cultural landscape that it represents today. The cultural indicators derived at this stage are potential indicators of cultural status or change that are linked to the biophysical environment of the WTWHA. The WTWHA is regarded by many Australians as a cultural landscape; however, it is not yet officially recognised as such by any formal designation. The area is currently under consideration for inclusion as a cultural property on the Australian National Heritage List. At this stage, recognition on the National Heritage List is a precursor for re-nomination on the World Heritage List as an ‘area of cultural value’. This revised listing would recognise the WTWHA as a World Heritage Listed Cultural Landscape. If successful, a formal requirement will be to report on the cultural values, in addition to the natural values for which the area is already recognised.

Project 4.9.1 JCU McIntyre-Tamwoy, S. et al. (2010) Wet Tropics Traditional Owners Strategic Research Directions Workshop Report
This report documents the outcomes of a Wet Tropics Traditional Owner workshop held in Innisfail, North Queensland on 15-16 September 2009. The objectives of the workshop were to present the outcomes and experiences associated with MTSRF funded Rainforest Aboriginal research during the period 2006-2010, provide a synthesis of work that occurred through the Rainforest CRC relevant to Aboriginal peoples, provide opportunities for participants to discuss emerging research priorities for natural and cultural resource management, enable target setting for potential future research, and make recommendations for future funding programs such as ‘MTSRF 2′.

Project 4.9.3 CSIRO Bohnet, I. et al. (2010) Sea- and treechange phenomena in the Wet Tropics: Impacts of urbanisation and mitigation potential
The terms ‘sea-change’ and ‘tree-change’ are popular Australian expressions for what has been termed ‘amenity migration’ in the United States, Canada and Europe. As the terms imply, sea- and tree-change involves a move to the coast or a forested picturesque area. Population movements from capital cities to non-metropolitan high amenity environs have been studied extensively over the past thirty years. Far North Queensland has some of the fastest growing population centres in the State outside the densely packed southeast corner. While population growth rates in coastal areas in terms of total numbers may not seem significant when compared with capital cities, the percentage growth rates experienced by coastal communities are significant when compared with their respective State and National averages. It can be speculated that this growth in population and associated urbanisation of coastal and hinterland areas in Far North Queensland, and in particular, in the Wet Tropics bioregion has much in common with the well documented sea-change phenomenon in other coastal regions of Australia. Similarly, the tree-change phenomenon seems worth investigating in the Wet Tropics bioregion, not only because as the land along the coastal strip becomes scarcer and less affordable, the nearby forested hill slopes may provide alternative locations to the coast, but also because the forested hills may attract changers for different reasons. This document reports on studies of the sea- and tree-change phenomena in Far North Queensland and provides considerations for Local Government and Natural Resource Management (NRM) authorities on managing and remediating impacts of urbanisation.

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