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Introduction to the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF)

The Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility - or MTSRF - was a $40 million component of the Australian Government's Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities, managed by the then Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 

Although the four-year term of the MTSRF officially concluded on 30 June 2010, this Australian Government investment will continue to deliver sustainability dividends into the future.  This ongoing delivery will occur directly, through continued Australian Government funding - with a number of MTSRF projects receiving short term additional 'transition funding' until December 2010 - and also indirectly, through the continued activity of the RRRC and consortium members.  Around $2 million in Australian Government transition funding will assist researchers across 41 projects to deliver extended products and tools to end users in the MTSRF region during the second half of 2010.  Further funding opportunities for North Queensland based researchers are expected to become available through the Government's new National Environmental Research Program as it comes online in 2011.

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Background to the MTSRF

Download Impacts of the MTSRF Brochure [pdf 4.36Mb]

Through a consortium of fifteen research agencies, involving around three hundred scientists, the MTSRF is delivering scientific solutions for the problems facing North Queensland's key environmental assets: the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, tropical rainforests including the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and Torres Strait.

In order to achieve its objectives, the MTSRF planned, funded and coordinated the highest quality, inter-disciplinary research for public good to:

  • Ensure the protection, conservation, sustainable use and management of the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, tropical rainforests including the Wet Tropics WorldHeritage Area, and Torres Strait;

  • Foster an understanding of the interactions of North Queensland's natural environment with the social and economic aspects of North Queensland's communities;

  • Support the adoption of science-based knowledge in policies and practices forecologically sustainable management; and

  • Facilitate capacity building for sustainable environmental management research, in partnership with the community, environmental managers, research institutions, industry and policy makers.

Research funding was guided by the MTSRF Research Investment Strategy (RIS), which was developed from extensive consultation and negotiation on the research and information priorities for understanding and managing North Queensland's public environmental assets.

The RIS represented the collective view of scientific experts, business and industry leaders, government agencies, non-government organisations and community groups. It provided a framework for the development of a suite of collaborative, multidisciplinary research projects that address aspects of priority environmental issues in North Queensland. Each research project was then
brokered, funded and reviewed annually during the development of the MTSRF Annual Research Plans

The MTSRF Research Programme comprises five key themes:

  1. Status of the ecosystems: understanding the condition, trend and interdependencies of environmental assets of the North Queensland region; developing methods to support ongoing regular assessment and reporting; and developing methods to identify priorities for action.

  2. Risks and threats to the ecosystems: understanding the threats to, and their impacts on the environment and hence the North Queensland region, and developing options to mitigate them.

  3. Halting and reversing decline of water quality: understanding the causes and effects of changing water quality and water resource use in North Queensland's coastal catchments; developing options for improving practices, reducing risks and mitigating adverse impacts; and developing ways to measure the effectiveness of regulation, management and other actions to halt and reverse declines. This goal supports the objectives of the Australian and Queensland Government's Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan).

  4. Sustainable use and management of natural resources: understanding the current and potential industry and community uses of biodiversity and natural resources with respect to ecological, social and economic sustainability; and providing information and options to assist North Queensland managers, industries and communities to optimise the use of biodiversity resources and minimise adverse impacts of use where they occur.

  5. Enhancing delivery: Increasing the relevance and adoption of research in policy development, management applications and use practices; supporting effective data exchange and adoption of data standards; funding the delivery of relevant reports in the public interest; providing system wide overviews through the integration of biophysical studies of the environmental assets of North Queensland and the integration of social and economic research into these; and providing access to data and knowledge for organisations and the public.

Helping to solve North Queensland's environmental problems

The MTSRF's unique engagement framework, in which researchers and end users collaboratively define and supervise research projects addressing specific environmental issues, is already enabling the MTSRF to help solve some of North Queensland's environmental problems.

SNAPSHOT - Spectacular recovery of coral trout populations inside green (no-take) zones on the Great Barrier Reef (Project 1.1.2) The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's decision to close around 33% of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to fishing in 2004 was controversial, even though it was based on good science.  Now, MTSRF-funded researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University have found dramatic evidence that this closure has already benefited populations of coral trout, a species highly prized by both recreational and commercial fishers.  Numbers of this fish have increased by 31-75% on the majority of reefs that have been closed to fishing for as little as two years.  Most surprisingly, these increases were observed consistently in green zone (closed) reefs across more than 1,000 km of the Great Barrier Reef.  This unequivocal demonstration of the effectiveness of green (no-take) zones as management tools for targeted fish species has been of great interest to fishers, scientists and managers in Queensland as well as nationally and internationally.  

SNAPSHOT - Promoting rainforest resilience by controlling invasive pests (Project 2.6.2):  Many rainforests in the Wet Tropics have been fragmented by human activities and this substantially increases their vulnerability to degradation.  Maintenance of native plant biodiversity within forest fragments is an important component of managing these ecosystems for resilience.  MTSRF-funded researchers from the CSIRO have found that the presence of invasive pests is often associated with a decline in the abundance of rare native species or rare native functional groups in tropical forest remnants, which, in turn, significantly impairs ecosystem resilience over long periods of time.  Control of invasive pests in remnant rainforest areas must therefore be a priority if these remaining fragments are to be resilient to disturbances such as climate change.

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