We have been working on establishin the methodologies and parameters to undertake a long term marine and coastal ecology monitoring program.

We intend to work on this because we do understand that this region is a ‘hotspot” for marine climate change and that there have been dire predictions that we may lose our macro algae over the next 20 years. We are interested and concerned to learn as much as we can about our coastal ecosystems and to provide good baseline data to encourage scientists to come and work here with us.

We (the Marine Society members) can work along the coast in tidal pools and we can snorkel. We have sought the help of others that can add data to our surveys. SCURG – the Sapphire Coast Underwater Group, have offered to work with us and the local abalone divers who are recording their fishing areas, have offered us their video footage. So we have the  possibility of a great range of data over time, but we need to decide on manageable methodologies for our community participants. At the moment we are struggling to find the most important data to record from the underwater footage, and also find help from online analysts to record the important data.

Below are the current details of the project:

We are establishing a long term marine ecosystem monitoring project in South East NSW
Co-ordinators – Sapphire Coast Marine Society and the Atlas of Life
The geographic ranges of most animal and plant species are limited by climatic factors, including temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, humidity, and wind. Any shift in the magnitude or variability of these factors in a given location can have a significant impact on the organisms living there (Parmesan, 1996, Parmesan et al., 1999). Changes in these factors can influence health, reproduction and distribution. The latest climate change modelling predicts that Australia’s surrounding oceans will warm by 1–2 ⁰C by 2070 (IPCC, 2007), with the south east (SE) coast of Australia expected to feel the greatest effects due to increased strength and penetration of the East Australian Current (EAC) (Hobday et al., 2006; Ridgway, 2007) . Existing temperature gradients of this magnitude in southern Australia (e.g., Smale and Wernberg, 2009) are associated with considerable differences in physiology (Stæhr and Wernberg, 2009; Wernberg et al., 2010), species distributions of algae, invertebrates and fish (O’Hara and Poore, 2000;Wernberg et al., 2003, 2010; Tuya et al., 2008a,b; Smale et al., 2010b), population structure and dynamics (Ling, 2008; Wernberg and Goldberg, 2008), and habitat structure (Connell et al., 2008) of temperate marine species. Added to temperature increases are predicted increases in ocean acidification Orr et al. (2005), Caldeira & Wickett(2005), Steinacher et al. (2009), Schmutter (2015) which will compound stresses on existing marine ecologies in this region.

Geographic range shifts are a common signature of climate change response, with increasing evidences suggesting that the geographic range of tropical and temperature coastal fish species should shift to higher latitudes, in response to poleward warming trends (Hickling et al., 2006; Parmesan, 2006). Further studies have indicated that this may already be happening along temperate habitats (McBride and Able, 1998; Nakazono, 2002; Booth et al., 2007) with changes in the composition of temperate fish assemblages and local species abundances changing to include species with greater preference for warmer ocean temperatures (Munday et al., 2009). In recent years, subtidal studies along the New South Wales (NSW) coast have observed pulses of expatriated juvenile tropical fish or ‘vagrants’ (herein ‘vagrant fish’) occurring as far south as Merimbula (37°S, Booth et al., 2007) throughout the warmer Summer and Autumn months. However, present (NSW) winter ocean temperatures act as a bottleneck for the long term persistence and population establishment of vagrant tropical fishes, with high mortality experienced during these months (Figueira and Booth, 2010).

Further compounding changes in temperate fish distribution, structurally important macroalgae (e.g. Bull kelp Durvillea potatorum) is predicted to have dramatic range shifts. Preferring temperate conditions, increased sea temperatures are predicted to radically move macroalgae distribution poleward. Warm sea temperatures influence the health of maocroalgae, often leaving large populations vulnerable to disease and wave action. Macroalgae provides important habitats for a number of temperate fish and invertebrate species throughout their life cycles, with predicted poleward shifts, ecosystems and species that require macroalgae habitats will either adapt or follow macroalgae range shifts.
Acknowledging these predicated localised shifts in species diversity, this community project looks to create and maintain a marine ecology monitoring program along the sapphire coast. This would also include recording of temperature and Ph.

Establish a monitoring programme that will build valuable data, recording biodiversity and changes over time
Monitor annual and seasonal changes in fish and invertebrate diversity and macroalgae health
Create and maintain an ongoing training program that improves interested community members knowledge about local marine life and improve their identification skills
Create an identification/education guide of the target fish and invertebrate diversity and health indicators on macroalgae.
Establish frequent monitoring of nominated sites and expand the number of survey sites over time
Encourage university involvement and/or grants

Materials, methods and participants(in brief)
There are three groups which have indicated an interest in participating in this project. 1. local snorkel enthusiasts, 2. SCURG, the recently established Sapphire Coast Underwater Research Group and 3. local abalone divers who have recently commenced using Go pro footage to provide evidence of sustainable management of their fishery.
Monitor changes in fish and iunvertebrate diversity and macroalgae health
Previous trials focused on using transects and quadrats. Although a preferred marine researcher method, the limitations in terms of observations made and community preferences make this technique difficult to establish with current observers. New trials will focus on timed swims at specified locations and footage contributed by local abalone divers at their normal working sites.

Fish Diversity
Firstly, an indicator species list will be created after conversations with fisheries, local marine naturalists and universities. This list will contain species that are regularly observed in the area, that are vulnerable to rising sea temperatures and vagrant species (e.g. tropical fish).
Using this composed list, snorkelers and/or SCUBA divers will select one of three designated survey sites (sites TBC and listed). Prior to a dive, volunteers can pick up survey forms from (location?) or download it from the ALCW website???. When at the site, the following will be noted; site name, date, time, weather and ocean conditions.
The dive itself will remain relatively simple. During a dive, any fish from the indicator list should be noted and listed into rare, common or abundant (see table below).
Data storage?
Macroalgae (sea weed) health
Macroalgae is often seen as a suitable indicator for the ecological status of a rocky shore community. When unhealthy or diseased, macroalgae will often appear discoloured, and/or have a layer of algae covering it. This can occur during late spring through to early Autumn when the East Australian Current delivers warmer water into the area. This survey will be conducted during the same time as the fish diversity survey, whereby the diver will recorded the appearance of any unhealthy macroalgae during the survey
Local abalone divers now use smaller underwater video cameras to record their dives. During these dives depth, time and distance is all recorded. This video footage will be donated to the organisers to be analysed. TBC the idea is that footage from the same site will be viewed with the following to be analysed
Presence of indicator fish species
Macroalgae presence and health
We need to agree and establish a method of analysing the images ALA create a page to enter the data? otherwise look at smart phone apps, or just use excel?

Create and maintain an ongoing training program that improves interested community members knowledge about local marine life and improve their identification skills

Working with local SCUBA groups, licensed snorkelers and organisers, community focused training workshops that help with fish and invertebrate identification, macroalgae monitoring and underwater photography will be conducted on a regular basis. Information about these workshops will be made available on…
Create identification/education guides of the target fish and invertebrates macroalgae and health indicators on macroalgae.
Information about the Sapphire Coast marine life and the effects of a changing climate is not always readily available. Building upon the survey identification form, information about the targeted fish and invertebrate species, macroalgae species and health, and the project will be made available via the Sapphire Coast Science Hub website www.atlasoflife.org.au
Expand numbers of sites
During the establishment stage of this project, only three sites will regularly surveyed. Organisers will carefully monitor the number of surveys and participants that conduct these surveys over the first year. If numbers are acceptable and feedback is promising, additional survey sites will be added.
Get university involvement and/or grants
Target universities with marine programs and/or field trip interests and encourage student participation over time.
Target temperate experts -> honours students.
Grants and papers
Expected results
Monthly recordings of fish species diversity and macroalgae health
Increase in community involvement and understanding
Eventual university involvement in the marine ecology project
Projected timeline
Things to consider (to discuss with libby/Michael/John)
Species lists
Volunteer numbers and registry
Work shops
Sites and site description
data presentations; community based and to universities
dives per month, season
when to expand number of sites.

Possible link