Pioneering shellfish reef restoration in Australia

Mr Simon Branigan1, Dr Chris Gillies1, Mr Simon  Reeves1, Ms Anita Nedosyko1

1The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Grove, Australia


Restoration of Australia’s shellfish reefs has been a key component of The Nature Conservancy’s Great Southern Seascapes program since its inception in 2014. There are now active shellfish reef restoration projects established in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria; Gulf St Vincent, South Australia; Oyster Harbour, Western Australia; Noosa and Pumicestone Passage in Queensland.

Shellfish reefs were once one of the dominant habitats in many estuaries across Southern Australia, however overfishing by the early European settlers decimated these reefs, removing a thriving ecosystem and vital benefits to human society. Restoration of shellfish reefs at scale will increase fish productivity, water filtration, stabilisation of sediments and coastal protection.

Pioneering restoration of shellfish reefs in an Australian context has required many elements to align. This presentation will provide an overview of the driving force behind the success of these projects highlighting barriers and challenges. Common project management considerations will be identified as well as restoration, communications, monitoring approaches and mechanisms to increase community involvement. The experience gained and lessons learnt from implementing these projects continues to unfold, and will be valuable information to natural resource managers and other practitioners embarking on similar undertakings.


Simon is particularly passionate about marine and coastal restoration – a passion informed by growing up fishing and diving in Queensland, spending many years of surfing throughout Australia, and 20 years working in restoration in estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy (TNC), he worked at the Victorian National Parks Association. He has also been on the Board of Directors for Surfrider Foundation Australia and as Chairperson for Environment Tasmania.

As TNC’s Marine Restoration Coordinator, Simon’s main area of focus is the development of our Great Southern Seascapes program in Victoria, which centres around restoring the lost shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay and making a significant and lasting contribution to the restoration and conservation of the states estuarine and coastal ecosystems.

Simon has a Master of Environmental Management from The University of Tasmania. He commenced working at TNC in 2014 and works from his home office in Ocean Grove and in the Melbourne office.

Australian shellfish habitats: past distribution, current status and future direction

Dr Chris Gillies1, Dr Ian McLeod2

1The Nature Conservancy, Carlton, Australia, Australia, 2TropWATER, James Cook University , Townsville, Australia


We review the status of marine ecosystems formed primarily by bivalves in Australia including identifying habitat-forming species, assessing their historical and current extent, causes for decline and past and present management.

Fourteen species of bivalves were identified as developing complex, three-dimensional reef or bed habitats in intertidal and subtidal areas across tropical, subtropical and temperate Australia. A dramatic decline in the extent and condition of Australia’s two most common habitat-forming species (Saccostrea glomerata and Ostrea angasi) occurred during the mid-1800s to early 1900s in concurrence with extensive harvesting for food and lime production, habitat modification, disease outbreaks and a decline in water quality.

Despite early attempts during the late 1800s to curb exploitation and initiate their recovery, we identify a dramatic decline in the extent of S. glomerata and O. angasi habitats compared to early European periods. Out of 118 historical locations containing O. angasi reef systems, only one location is still known to exist whilst only five locations are known to still contain S. glomerata reef systems out of 60 historical locations. The introduced oyster Crasostrea gigas is likely to be increasing in extent, whilst data on the remaining 11 habitat- forming species are limited, preventing a detailed assessment of their current status.  A number of restoration projects have recently been initiated across Australia and we propose a number of existing government policies and conservation mechanisms, if enacted, would readily serve to support the future conservation and recovery of Australia’s shellfish habitats.


Chris is the Marine Manger for the Australia program where he oversees the Great Southern Seascapes program. This includes accelerating the conservation and restoration of Australia’s temperate marine coastal habitats with a particular focus on restoring shellfish reefs.

Chris has previously worked across the science and conservation sector in both freshwater and terrestrial environments but his true passion is marine. He was formally the Director of Science at Earthwatch Australia, where he managed the scientific program across Earthwatch’s expedition and citizen science portfolio. He has created a number of terrestrial and marine citizen science projects, established several national practitioner networks and developed corporate sustainability learning programs. He has served as an invertebrate ecologist for both state and federal government environmental agencies and worked for several environmental consultancies.

Response of the coastal plankton community of south-eastern Tasmania through the 2015/16 MHW event and beyond

Miss Rhian Evans1, Assoc / Prof. Mary-Anne Lea1, Prof. Mark Hindell1, Dr Kerrie Swadling1

1Institute Of Marine And Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


During the summer of 2015/16, the continental shelf ecosystem off south-east Tasmania experienced the longest and most extreme marine heatwave on local record. This event has been attributed to anomalous convergence of heat linked to the increase in both the duration and the southwards penetration of East Australian Current (EAC) eddies. As a result of this movement of sub-tropical water south, zooplankton communities have responded through species range shifting, and a tendency towards warm-water signature communities dominated by smaller size classes.

Zooplankton were collected over the summer season both during the marine heatwave in 2015/16 and the subsequent, cooler 2016/17 summer (~3 °C cooler). Nineteen stations east of Bruny Island were sampled between November and May to catch the productive summer periods. Cluster analysis revealed a significant difference in community structure between the two years, while principal components analysis highlighted seawater temperature and chlorophyll-a concentration as the main biophysical drivers of the variation.

Work is currently underway to explore the nature of the differences in community structure: (1) species identification, (2) tracking presence and abundance of warm water indicator species common to the EAC, and (3) detailed analyses of the size spectra of the communities. A change in both the species composition and the size distribution of local zooplankton will have cascading effects up the food web. In a region supporting a diverse array of resident and migratory marine predators, this knowledge will inform local models to predict the effects of climate change on these populations.


Rhian is currently a PhD student at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic studies and has lived in Tasmania for the last 4 years. Previous to this, she completed a Master of Research in Marine Biology at the University of Southampton, UK, the results of which were published in Deep Sea Research II in 2013.

Since then, she has worked for a range of NGO and university based research projects all over the world, mostly concerned with the movement ecology, abundance and distribution, and genetic diversity of marine predators including marine mammals and seabirds, sharks and turtles.

Currently, Rhian’s research is investigating the biophysical drivers of a productive, biologically diverse ecosystem on the continental shelf off SE Tasmania. More specifically, this region is part of a rapidly warming “hotspot” and this research will describe the effects that this rise in temperature might have on the planktonic community structure, fish biomass and the resulting effects on the range of resident and migratory marine mammals and birds which inhabit the region.

Marine acoustic mapping of turbid, macro-tidal coastal environments – a large-scale example from tropical northern Australia

Dr Rachel Nanson1, Kim  Picard1, Dr Justy Siwabessy1, Neil Smit3, David Williams2, Lynda Radke1, Brendan Brooke1, Scott Nichol1

1Geoscience Australia, Symonston, Australia, 2Australian Institute of Marine Science, PO Box 41775, Casuarina, Australia, 3Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Northern Territory Government, Palmerston, Australia


Coastal areas with highly turbid waters, such as most of northern Australia, present challenges for mapping seabed topography and habitats. In these environmental conditions multibeam sonar systems rather than LIDAR are relied upon. By integrating these data with sub-bottom profiles, critical environmental baseline information is obtained, improving our understanding of coastal processes.

Seabed mapping is a core part of a 4 year collaborative program between the Northern Territory Government, Geoscience Australia and Australian Institute of Marine Science, and has been made feasible through offset funds provided by INPEX-led Ichthys LNG Project to the Northern Territory Government Department of Environment and Natural Resource, and co-investment of the collaborators. Here, we outline some of the key insights gained from mapping the seafloor of the greater Darwin Harbour region using this integrated multibeam and sub-bottom approach.

These new data reveal both terrestrial and marine palaeo- and recent environments. Multiple geomorphic features were identified including reefs, sediment bedforms and erosional surfaces, indicating a range of contemporary processes. These features highlight the diversity of habitat that can be found in this turbid and dynamic coastal environment. These data will be used to inform management of the benthic habitats of the harbour and help guide future surveys to document and monitor the harbour’s biological communities.


As a graduate Rachel initially worked as a Rivercare Implementor for the Department of Land and Water Conservation (NSW), before returning to studies to undertake her PhD in fluvial geomorphology.  She has since been employed as a fluvial and marginal marine geomorphologist in both academic and consulting roles . Rachel has recently moved her research focus further offshore, and is today representing Geoscience Australia in her role as a marine geomorphologist.

The Intertidal Extents Model (ITEM) v2.0 – Modelling the intertidal extent and topography of Australia’s coastline and reefs

Dr Stephen Sagar1, Mr Biswajit Bala1, Dr Claire Phillips1

1Geoscience Australia, Symonston, Australia


In 2016 Geoscience Australia released the Intertidal Extents Model (ITEM); derived from 28 years of earth observation data, it is the first continental scale model describing the extent and topography of Australia’s vast exposed intertidal zone. ITEM has already been used to provide information for migratory bird studies and coastal habitat mapping projects, and to derive digital elevation models that have significantly improved modelling of the land/ocean interface.

In this talk we introduce version 2 of the ITEM, based on the full archive of Landsat satellite data managed within the Digital Earth Australia (DEA) platform.  DEA provides spatially and spectrally calibrated earth observation data to enable time-series analysis on a per-pixel basis across the Australian continent. In developing ITEM v2.0 we have integrated an improved tidal modelling framework, enabling us to more accurately associate each observation in the full 30 year time series with the modelled tide height. We demonstrate the improvements this new modelling framework has provided to the ITEM product, particularly in regions with complex coastlines and large tidal ranges.

Case study examples will be discussed in which we demonstrate the new model’s ability to more effectively examine coastal instability, and to provide a smoother more continuous model across the continent. The extended coverage of ITEM v2.0 will also be introduced, including the full Great Barrier Reef, where the model provides a new perspective by identifying the extents of reefs exposed at different stages of the tidal cycle.


Stephen Sagar is the Marine Remote Sensing Project Leader within the Digital Earth Australia (DEA) program at Geoscience Australia. His research interests include the development of products from time series earth observation data, for understanding the dynamics of the coastal and marine environment.

IMOS National Reference Station Network – a platform for collaboration, integration and partnerships

Tim Moltmann1, Ana Lara-lopez1,  Lev Bodrossy2, Lesley  Clementson2, Claire Davies2, Ming Feng3, David Hughes2, Tim Ingleton6, John Middleton4, Craig Steinberg5, Iain Suthers7

1Integrated Marine Observing System, Hobart, Australia, 2Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Hobart, Australia, 3Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Perth, Australia, 4South Australian Research and Development Institute, Henley Beach, Australia, 5Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia, 6NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, Australia, 7University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


The Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) is an Australian Government national research infrastructure program that undertakes systematic and sustained observing of the marine environment. All observations are turned into data to be discovered, accessed, used, and reused by national and international research communities and other users of marine data. IMOS is integrated across disciplines and across spatio-temporal scales, supporting open-ocean and climate science as well as continental shelf and marine coastal science. IMOS has approached the challenge of observing Australia’s marine estate by establishing ‘backbone’ facilities. Backbone facilities link the broadscale to the regional, and provide national capability that goes beyond a ‘sum of regions’ approach. The largest of these is the National Reference Stations (NRS) network. It is the most complex and most multi-institutional facility in IMOS, with four different institutions; CSIRO, AIMS, SIMS and SARDI, having day-to-day responsibilities for this network. The NRS includes both continuous moored-sensor and monthly/quasi-monthly vessel-based sampling, measuring a wide range of physical, biogeochemical and biological variables. The long-term time-series, which includes 3 stations with >60-70 years of data, have been critical for defining key components of climate change and associated ecosystem responses. The rich environmental context provided by the NRS has also attracted the collaboration of new research communities, resulting in new initiatives like marine microbes and ichthyoplankton monitoring. Data has also been used in hydrodynamic models linking the continental shelf to the coast.

This talk is an overview of successful collaboration, integration and partnership of IMOS NRS network and its science impact.


Tim Moltmann is the Director of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), based at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. In this role he is responsible for planning and implementation of a large national collaborative research infrastructure program, which is deploying a wide range of observing equipment in the oceans around Australia and making all of the data openly available to the marine and climate science community and other stakeholders.

Tim is a highly experienced Australian research leader. He has been Director of IMOS for nine years, and before that worked at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
(CSIRO) for over a decade, rising to be Deputy Chief of the Marine & Atmospheric Research Division based in Hobart. He has a particular interest in research infrastructure, and has played a lead role in major national projects relating to large research vessels, observing systems, and national marine information infrastructure.

Tim’s national roles include being Chair of Australia’s National Marine Science Committee, Co-Chair of Australia’s Forum for Operational Oceanography, and a member of national committees on
Marine Biodiversity research, Climate Change research, Environmental Information, and integrated monitoring and reporting for the Great Barrier Reef. He has worked in primary industries and
fisheries at State Government level, and has extensive background experience in private industry in Australia and the UK.

His international roles include being Chair of the Global Ocean Observing System Regional Alliance Forum, and an ex officio member of the Global Ocean Observing System Steering Committee. He has contributed as an invited expert to planning and review of marine research infrastructure programs in Canada, the USA, Brazil and Singapore.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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