P A Hutchings M J Kingsford O Hoegh Guldberg

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's most spectacular natural features and one of the few biological structures visible from space (Fig. 1.1). The sheer size of the GBR Marine Park (over 360 000 km2) as well its beauty and biodiversity draw people from all over the world. The reef stretches over 2200 km from subtropical waters (~27°S) to the tropical waters of Torres Strait (8°S) and as far as 400 km from the coast to the outer shelf slope. For Australians, the reef is a source of much pride and enjoyment. The GBR is one of the most prominent icons of Australia, with the majority of visitors coming specifically to Australia to see it. This draw underpins substantial industries such as tourism and commercial and recreational fisheries. What is perhaps a surprise is how much more we still need to know about coral reefs like the GBR. We are still struggling to describe the myriad of species and processes that define the GBR—all with an urgency now that is heightened by the unprecedented local and global pressures that currently face the reef.

The underlying concept behind this book is to describe the patterns, processes, human interactions and organisms that underpin large reef ecosystems like the GBR. Although much of the content of this book is focused on the GBR, we consider it highly relevant to coral reefs in other parts of Australia and the rest of the world. There has been no other comprehensive introduction to the biology, environment, and management of the GBR, especially with regard to the major processes that underpin it or how issues such as deteriorating coastal water quality and climate change affect it. Extending our knowledge and understanding of these processes is vital if we are to sustainably manage the Reef, especially during the coming century of climate change. Only by understanding and managing it wisely do we have a chance of keeping the GBR 'great'.

This book is aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students and the informed public, as well as researchers and managers who would like to familiarise themselves with the complexity of coral reefs like the GBR. The project arose out of an advanced undergraduate course that has been held on the GBR over the past decade and extensive discussions on the need for a book like this at the ACRS. Through this society and the course, we were able invite the appropriate international experts to contribute to this book. The ACRS (which started out as the Great Barrier Reef Committee) is the oldest coral reef society in the world and most of the authors are members and

Figure 1.1 Image of the entire GBR from space showing the mainland from Cape York to Gladstone (approximately 2000 km). A mosaic of reefs can be seen parallel to the mainland and extending hundreds of kilometres across the GBR. Quasi-true colour image showing the Great Barrier Reef along the continental shelf of north-eastern Australia. (Image generated from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), data courtesy of NASA/GSFC, image courtesy of Dr Scarla Weeks, Centre for Marine Studies at The University of Queensland. Insert shows a closer cross-shelf view of the reefs out from Hitchinbrook, near Townsville.

Figure 1.1 Image of the entire GBR from space showing the mainland from Cape York to Gladstone (approximately 2000 km). A mosaic of reefs can be seen parallel to the mainland and extending hundreds of kilometres across the GBR. Quasi-true colour image showing the Great Barrier Reef along the continental shelf of north-eastern Australia. (Image generated from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), data courtesy of NASA/GSFC, image courtesy of Dr Scarla Weeks, Centre for Marine Studies at The University of Queensland. Insert shows a closer cross-shelf view of the reefs out from Hitchinbrook, near Townsville.

associates of this society. It was also intimately involved in the establishment of the world's largest marine park, the GBR Marine Park in 1975, which was recently enlarged and rezoned based on our much increased understanding of coral reefs.

The book is divided into three sections. In the first section, the geomorphology and paleobiology of the GBR are discussed along with its oceanography. The various habitats of the GBR are discussed, not only from the point of view of coral dominated ecosystems, but also includes the important associated inter-reefal areas. These components of the GBR, along with catchments and offshore deeper waters, are highly interconnected (Fig. 1.2). The second section focuses on the major processes that are affecting the reef and includes a review of photosynthesis and primary production, as well as the flow of energy and nutrients within the reef ecosystem. Other chapters deal with the major

Figure 1.2 Crossing the Blue Highway. Designed and written by science communicator Russell Kelley and published by the ACRS, the Blue Highway poster portrays the reefs of the Great Barrier Reef as part of a larger supporting system that includes the coastal catchments. The poster illustrates how natural nutrient loads from runoff and ocean upwell-ing fuel a connected mosaic of ecosystems and the role inter-reef habitats play in supporting migrating species as they move from inshore nursery grounds to the outer reefs. The model species of fish is Lutjanus sebae (red emperor snapper) that spawn near the shelf edge and recruit to estuaries as larvae. Juveniles move from recruitment habitat to reefs and inter-reefal habitats, before they mature. Printed copies of this poster are available from the GBRMPA. (Artwork: G. Ryan.)

Figure 1.2 Crossing the Blue Highway. Designed and written by science communicator Russell Kelley and published by the ACRS, the Blue Highway poster portrays the reefs of the Great Barrier Reef as part of a larger supporting system that includes the coastal catchments. The poster illustrates how natural nutrient loads from runoff and ocean upwell-ing fuel a connected mosaic of ecosystems and the role inter-reef habitats play in supporting migrating species as they move from inshore nursery grounds to the outer reefs. The model species of fish is Lutjanus sebae (red emperor snapper) that spawn near the shelf edge and recruit to estuaries as larvae. Juveniles move from recruitment habitat to reefs and inter-reefal habitats, before they mature. Printed copies of this poster are available from the GBRMPA. (Artwork: G. Ryan.)

forces within and around the reef, illustrating its inherent dynamic personality. This section also reviews our current understanding of how local (declining water quality and over exploitation of fisheries) and global factors (ocean warming and acidification) have changed the circumstances under which coral reefs have otherwise prospered over the last millennia.

The third and last section of this book, which is perhaps the most important, deals with the diversity of organisms that live in and around coral reefs (Fig. 1.3). In this section, the reader is introduced to the basic taxonomy of the major groups, as well as their biology and ecology. This is a fascinating journey through the unique and wonderful creatures of coral reefs. By weaving the basic taxonomy of these groups together with fascinating details of their lives, it is hoped that the interest of the reader will be inspired to explore this incredible diversity.

Throughout this book we come back to the major challenges that reefs face in our changing world. For this reason, our book is unique is in that it reviews the past, current, and future trajectories and management of

the GBR. Reefs of the world are at risk and knowledge-based management is critical. The GBR is at the forefront of this. It is our hope that this book will help develop a better understanding of coral reefs and to assist in maintaining their ecological resilience in order to allow them to survive the challenges of the future.

This said, we hope that you will enjoy using this book to discover the intricacies of the world's most diverse marine ecosystem. As editors, we would like to thank the generous contributions from the many authors that have contributed to this book, the production of which would have not been possible otherwise.

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