The coral reef ecosystems stretching 300 kilometres along the Pilbara-Ningaloo coastline in Western Australia represent a biodiversity hotspot of global significance, as recognised by its World Heritage listing in 2011. Now, a team of UWA scientists led by Professor Collin, in partnership with the CSIRO, are conducting the first comprehensive survey of the area that will provide an unprecedented snapshot of this unique marine environment.

The Pilbara Marine Conservation Partnership (PMCP) is a five-year, 12 million dollar project funded by the Gorgon project’s Net Conservation Benefits Scheme, jointly administered by UWA’s Oceans Institute and the CSIRO. It is the first comprehensive, high-resolution sampling and monitoring project of this vital area, which will provide an important resource for future generations in understanding and protecting the area, and continuing to monitor it over time.

The project encompasses three major themes: coral reef health, fish and shark assemblages, and environmental drivers/pressures. The data and information that is accumulated across these three themes will be used to establish ecosystem-wide context for government and industry monitoring programs that underpin marine management in the region.

“The study will develop a greater understanding of the dynamics of coral, algal and fish communities in the region, which in turn will provide us with the ecological indicators of the impacts of environmental perturbation (both anthropogenic and natural)”, Professor Collin says.

“With the generated data, we can provide a research baseline for decision making in the region that will strike the right balance between environmental conservation and industry development.”

The project is now in the second year of its five-year term.