The team at Reef HQ Aquarium have been propagating corals for use in experiments and displays for many years. This has been a very successful program and is now a routine part of Reef HQ Aquarium operations. This allows Reef HQ Aquarium to choose corals that are most suited and adapted to the captive environment and place them around exhibits where they can flourish and colonise a particular area. This has been so successful for some corals that they are almost considered to be 'weedy' species in the tank
The coral propagation program embraces the natural ability of some coral colonies to regrow if broken under stress in the wild, such as in a storm or cyclone. This ensures the world's largest living coral reef aquarium can be maintained and developed in the most sustainable way.
Based on the same principle of propagation that is frequently used in domestic gardens to start new plants from mature ones, coral fragments are broken off from donor colonies to start new colonies. Coral fragments require particular attention in finding a suitable substrate to attach to.
Over the long-term, ocean acidification is likely to be the most significant climate factor for the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. As the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increases, carbon dioxide absorbed by the world's oceans will also increase, causing the oceans to become more acidic (with a lower pH level). Increases in ocean acidity affect the capacity of corals (and other calcifying animals) to build their skeletons.
Dr Ken Anthony from the University of Queensland has partnered with Reef HQ Aquarium and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to assess the factors that affect the vulnerability of coral reefs to ocean acidification.
Harlequin Filefish and Climate Change
The Great Barrier Reef is home to incredible diversity of fish and marine life.The predicted effects of climate change such as increased water temperature, decreased coral cover and ocean acidification may have serious impacts on the Harlequin Filefish, Oxymonacanthus longirostris. It is important for scientists and managers to understand exactly how these factors will affect fish and anticipate their ability to adapt to changes.
The Harlequin Filefish is a charismatic species found throughout the Indo-West Pacific. It is especially reliant on healthy coral reefs as it feeds exclusively on live corals. Using the facilities at Reef HQ Aquarium, James Cook University student Rohan Brooker is currently investigating the effects of climate change on the reproduction and ecology of this fish.
Sharks are an important part of the marine ecology of the Great Barrier Reef. There is growing concern about the conservation and management of sharks in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and around the world. There is also growing recognition of the importance of sharks to the tourism industry on the Reef. Despite this, very little is known about many species of sharks on the east coast of Australia.
PhD student Andrew Chin from James Cook University is currently studying the biology and ecology of the Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus, to determine the implications for management and conservation on the Great Barrier Reef. Andrew is currently using facilities at Reef HQ Aquarium to maintain Blacktip Reef Sharks and determine their age and growth rates.
This important project aims to provide critical research for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and give reef managers better information and tools for conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.