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biota

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    Reef Life Survey is a program that trains and assists a network of skilled and committed recreational divers to cost-effectively assess the state of the inshore marine environment at the continental scale. The program uses standardised underwater visual census methods employed by SCUBA divers to survey fish and invertebrate species and to record macroalgal and coral cover using photo quadrats - this record refers to the website for this program. By standardising techniques and establishing a monitoring system on a nation-wide scale, the program addresses many of the current problems associated with managing the marine environment, including the paucity, patchiness and variable quality of data on the distribution of and trends to marine biodiversity. A central database is managed for the storage, analysis and dissemination of data collected nationally, with a publicly-accessible web-based portal. The website allows information collected on Australia's marine environment to be accessed in a meaningful form by policy-makers and the general public, including recreational groups, scientists and industry. It also has information and resources for particpating divers and those wishing to become involved. The dataset generated by recreational divers will provide a national framework for monitoring the state of the inshore environment and the identification of those threats and locations of greatest conservation concern. This record points to the online resource for Reef Life Survey: http://www.reeflifesurvey.com/

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    The main aim of this research program was to determine the potential for reducing the density of urchins to encourage the return of seaweeds and an improvement in urchin roe quality and quantity from remaining urchins. Tasmanian Sea Urchin Developments used two widely-separated sub-tidal experimental lease areas. One of these areas was at Meredith Point, on the east coast, and the other at Hope Island, on the south coast. Both sites had been subject to some overgrazing by urchins. At Meredith Point, the study area was divided into plots containing urchins at three densities: artificially enhanced, continually harvested and control (undisturbed). At Hope Island, controlled clearings of urchins and limpets from barrens areas were conducted. Recovery of vegetation was monitored as well as urchin roe quality and quantity. The data represented by this record was collected at Meredith Point.

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    Water temperature, averaged across the water column, in Storm Bay followed a distinct seasonal cycle each year, reaching a low of 9 °C and a high of ~ 19 °C. Warmest temperatures were in February, followed by a gradual cooling throughout autumn to a winter minimum in August, then increasing again during spring. Across the sites, the median temperature varied little, with site 3, the most marine of the sites, showing the least spread in values. Median salinity varied little across Storm Bay, being slightly higher at sites 3 and 6, highlighting the marine nature of site 3 and the patterns of seawater circulation in Storm Bay. The lowest salinities were recorded at site 1, where less saline surface waters flow into the bay from the Derwent Estuary. Seasonally, salinity was highest in autumn, with slightly fresher water present in Storm Bay in spring. Some lower salinity values were recorded in July and August, suggesting the presence of less saline subantarctic water flowing into the bay, or freshwater flow from the Derwent. Glider transects show slight lower salinity in summer, then mild stratification in autumn to spring, especially in the shallow regions near the mouth of the Derwent.

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    Kelps are in global decline due to climate change, including ocean warming. To identify vulnerable species, we need to identify their tolerances to increasing temperatures and whether tolerances are altered by co-occurring drivers such as inorganic nutrient levels. This is particularly important for those with restricted distributions, which may already be experiencing thermal stress. To identify thermal tolerance of the range restricted kelp Lessonia corrugata, we conducted a laboratory experiment on juvenile sporophytes to measure performance (growth, photosynthesis) across its thermal range (4 – 22 °C). We found the upper thermal limit for growth and photosynthesis to be ~ 22 – 23 °C, with an optimum of ~ 16 °C. To determine if elevated inorganic nitrogen availability could enhance thermal tolerance, we compared performance of juveniles under low (4.5 µmol/day) and high (90 µmol/day) nitrate conditions at and above the thermal optimum (16 – 23.5 °C). Nitrate enrichment did not enhance thermal performance at temperatures above the optimum but did lead to elevated growth rates at the thermal optimum 16 °C. Our findings indicate L. corrugata is likely to be extremely susceptible to moderate ocean warming and marine heatwaves. Peak sea surface temperatures during summer in eastern and northeastern Tasmania can reach up to 20 – 21 °C and climate projections suggest that L. corrugata’s thermal limit will be regularly exceeded by 2050 as south-eastern Australia is a global ocean-warming hotspot. By identifying the upper thermal limit of L. corrugata we have taken a critical step in predicting the future of the species in a warming climate.

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    Mesozooplankton community composition and structure were examined throughout the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Huon Estuary and North West Bay, Tasmania, from November 2004 to October 2005, the data represented by this record was collected on the 11/02/2005. The composition of the mesozooplankton community was typical of inshore, temperate marine habitats, with seasonally higher abundance in summer and autumn and lower numbers in winter and spring. Copepods were the largest contributors to total abundance across all seasons and stations, while cladocerans and appendicularians were proportionally abundant in spring and summer. The faecal pellets of these three main groups, along with those of krill and amphipods, also contributed significantly to material recovered from sediment traps. Meroplanktonic larvae of benthic animals showed short-term peaks in abundance and were often absent from the water column for long periods. Spatially, North West Bay and the Channel had a higher representation of typically marine species, including Calanus australis and Labidocera cervi, while truly estuarine species, such as the copepod Gladioferens pectinatus, were more important in the Huon Estuary.

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    Biogenic marine habitats are increasingly threatened by a multitude of human impacts, and temperate coasts in particular are exposed to progressively more intense and frequent anthropogenic stressors. In this study, the single and multiple effects of the urban stressors of nutrification and sedimentation on kelp bed communities were examined within Australia’s largest urbanised embayment (Port Phillip Bay, Victoria). Within this system, grazing by sea urchins (Heliocidaris erythrogramma) plays an important role in structuring reef communities by overgrazing kelp beds and maintaining an alternative and stable urchin barrens state. It is therefore important to explore the effects of urban stressors on kelp bed dynamics related to urchin abundance, and test the relative strengths of bottom-up and / or physical drivers (e.g. elevated nutrients and sediment) versus top-down (e.g. urchin grazing) forces on kelp bed community structure. The interactions of these drivers were assessed to determine whether their combination has synergistic, antagonistic, or additive effects on kelp beds. It was found that kelp responds positively to nutrient enhancement, but when combined with enhanced abundance of grazing sea urchins, the local positive effect of nutrient enhancement is overwhelmed by the negative effect of increased herbivory. Turf-forming algae behaved very differently, showing no detectable response to nutrification, yet showing a positive response to urchins, apparently mediated by overgrazing of canopy-forming algae that limit turf development. No direct effects of enhanced sediment load (at twice the ambient load) were found on intact kelp beds. Collectively, the results demonstrate that the ‘top-down’ control of urchin grazing locally overwhelms the positive ‘bottom-up’ effect of nutrient enhancement, and that intact kelp beds demonstrate resilience to direct impacts of urban stressors.

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    The phenotypic plasticity of habitat-forming seaweeds was investigated with a transplant experiment in which juvenile Ecklonia radiata and Phyllospora comosa were transplanted from NSW (warm conditions) to Tasmania (cool conditions) and monitored for four months. We used multiple performance indicators (growth, photosynthetic characteristics, pigment content, chemical composition, stable isotopes, nucleic acids) to assess the ecophysiology of seaweeds before and following transplantation between February 2012 and June 2012.

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    [This data has been superseded by a synthesised global dataset which includes additional ecological data contributed by non-RLS entities (National Reef Monitoring Network). Please visit the corresponding NRMN Collection (IMOS - National Reef Monitoring Network Sub-Facility - Global cryptobenthic fish abundance) for the most current version of this data. See "Downloads and Links" section below.] Reef Life Survey is designed to develop and resource a network of skilled recreational divers for rapid and cost-effective assessment of the state of the inshore marine environment at the global scale. The project uses standardised underwater visual census methods employed by trained SCUBA divers to survey fish and invertebrate species and to record habitat type using photo quadrats - this dataset refers to the cryptic fish and invertebrate survey component only.

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    Community assembly in macrofauna communities developed in artificial kelp holdfasts was monitored at 1-month intervals over a 13 month period using a sampling design that used systematic patterns of temporal overlap and changes in start and collection dates. The hierarchical nature of the experimental design allowed several different approaches to analysis; by date of deployment and by date of collection of the artificial habitats, which enabled comparison of community assembly with and without the seasonal effects of the date of collection, and by community age to test whether there were alternative end-states to assembly depending on season or recruitment history.

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    The spatial extent of C. rodgersii "barrens" was estimated by surveying rocky reef habitat with a towed underwater video system. Sampling took place at 13 regions along the east coast of Tasmania, each comprising 3 subsites. Substrate and habitat type were recorded using video analysis, with 4 categories of urchin barren habitat recognised (see below for definitions).