Prof Jody Webster
University of Sydney
Research voyage to the Great Barrier Reef to investigate the origin, development and distribution of Halimeda bioherms, ancient donut-shaped deep-water reefs.
Halimeda (a genus of green calcareous macroalgae)bioherms on the northern Great Barrier Reef shelf are the most extensive, actively accumulating Halimeda deposits in the world, contributing to their Outstanding Universal Value from a geological and geomorphological perspective. However, little is known about the fundamental processes that control Halimeda bioherm distribution and development, and their role as key inter-reef habitats and carbon sinks.
Led by Chief Scientist Professor Jody Webster from the University of Sydney, researchers will conduct detailed mapping and sampling (seafloor and seawater) operations on the northern Great Barrier Reef in order to better understand the fundamental processes that control bioherm development and distribution, and their role in the ecosystem. This research project is called HALO: HALimeda bioherm Origins.
There is one other project on this voyage:
- Dinoflagellates and planktonic assemblage observation (Dr Matt Gordon, DSTG – On shore): Collection of water samples for identification of dinoflagellate species.
The science team on the voyage will have 28 participants (plus 20 ship crew and a reef pilot) representing 10 institutions, including 6 Australian universities, Geoscience Australia, the University of Tokyo and the University of Granada (Spain).
To safeguard the health and well-being of participants, strict COVID-19 protocols apply to all activities on this voyage. This includes a 7-day quarantine on shore and 3-phase PCR testing of all participants for COVID-19 prior to boarding the vessel.
This voyage represents a key component of Project HALO, which is focused on understanding how the Halimeda bioherms on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) formed, their importance in biogeochemical nutrient cycling and as modern habitats in one of the GBR’s biodiversity hot spots. The GBR Halimeda bioherms have Outstanding Universal Value as the largest modern Halimeda bioherm province in the world.
As a result of this voyage, researchers acquired the highest spatial resolution multibeam bathymetry dataset available for the study area. This will provide a better understanding of the surface and subsurface geomorphological characteristics and evolution of the Halimeda bioherms from 3 different regions of the northern GBR margin. The new geophysical, sample and oceanographic data from the bioherms will feed into various management actions and assist managers by contributing to a greater understanding of these significant, but poorly studied inter-reef shelf habitats, to help inform their management and long-term protection.
In addition, the detailed seafloor mapping conducted in the northern GBR slope during the voyage will increase the navigation confidence to allow defence and border protection greater access to this remote region of the GBR. This mapping will also provide additional important information to marine park managers and assists with several national seafloor mapping initiatives.
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