In response to the need for more ecologically relevant and easily measured, yet widespread indices of water quality, TWQ Hub researchers have been investigating how to utilise remote-sensed light availability as  a metric directly relevant to healthy and resilient corals and seagrasses across the Great Barrier Reef.

Previous TWQ hub projects have investigated the relationship between light near the seabed and the health of corals and seagrasses. Part of this research involved collaborations with NASA and Geoscience Australia using satellite ocean colour data to map benthic photosynthetically available radiation (bPAR), essentially the amount of available sunlight for benthic (seabed) communities across the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


Mean daily benthic PAR (mol photons/m2/day) during the 2006 and 2011 water years, highlighting the year-to-year variability of this water quality indicator and the influence of river plumes on the light received by seagrasses and corals


Researchers involved in Benthic light as ecologically-validated GBR-wide indicator for water quality: Drivers, thresholds and cumulative risks, are now working towards an improved and operational water quality index for reef managers to better asses the health and recovery of the Great Barrier Reef.

Collaborations with scientists from other Hub projects have also enabled better understanding of the linkages between bPAR and the health and diversity of seagrass meadows.

All these data have now been made available via the TWQ Hub’s public data repository, the eAtlas. Research users and reef managers can now access remote-sensed seasonal and annual bPAR data for the whole Great Barrier Reef spanning April 2002 through to the end of 2019, enabling customised visualisations of benthic light in their preferred regions, an avenue towards better informed decision-making based on current and historical conditions.


Photo: Barbara Robson (Australian Institute of Marine Science)


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