Habitat Mapping the Great Barrier Reef: Cairns – Cooktown Management Region


In December 2016 the Remote Sensing Research Centre was funded to continue in 2017 the development and implementation for a habitat mapping approach for the Great Barrier Reef, for which currently no detailed habitat maps exist. The work follows up on the initial work done in 2015-2016 in the Capricorn Bunker Group and both are funded through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The approach combines satellite remote sensing imagery (Landsat) with ecological modelling and mapping rules sets to create geomorphic zonation (e.g. slope, crest, lagoon), benthic composition (e.g. coral, algae, rock, sand) and coral type maps (e.g. plate, branching, massive corals).

The 2017 project is part of a bigger project that develops resilience tools for marine park management which is initially tested for the 200 reefs in the Cairns and Cooktown management region and collaborates with Marine Spatial Ecology lab, and Engineering at The University of Queensland, The Australian Institute of Marine Science, Jame Cook University, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and EOMAP.

Eva Kovacs (RSRC) conducting a georeferenced photo transect survey, while towing a GPS that floats at the surface.

Peran Bray (RSRC) conducting a Coral Watch and Reef Health Impact Survey.

For the purpose of calibration and validation field data was collected during a 10 day field trip, 22-31 January.  Nine reefs were visited and for each reef spatial information was collected focussing mainly on benthic composition derived from georeferenced photo transects collected along reef slopes and top. A total of 70 dives transects (400-600 m) and 30 snorkel transects (500-1000 m) totalling 54 km were done to collect 19000 photos. 

Additional information was collected at each of the 100 sites in regards to Coral Colour (www.coralwatch.org), Reef Health Impact (Eye on The Reef Program), Crown of Thorn, Water depth surveys, and drone surveys (JCU). The in water team consisted of volunteers from Reef Check Australia, and UQ.

For more information on the GBR habitat mapping contact Dr. Chris Roelfsema (Project PI)

Left to right: Douglas Stetner (UQ, Reef Check), Karen Joyce (JCU), Josh Passenger (Reef Check), Monique Grol (UQ, CoralWatch), Peran Bray (UQ, Reef Check), Stefano Frequia (UQ, Reef Check), Eva Kovacs (RSRC), Chris Roelfsema (RSRC), and Stetphanie Duce (JCU).