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Australia's coastal observation network may aid in understanding of extreme ocean events

Observation network provides multi-decadal data on Australia's coastal waters


A network of nine reference sites off the Australian coast is providing the latest physical, chemical, and biological information to help scientists better understand Australia's coastal seas, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tim Lynch from CSIRO, Australia and colleagues.

Sustained oceanic observations allow scientists to track changes in oceanography and ecosystems. To address this, the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) implemented a network of nine National Reference Stations (NRS). The network builds on three long-term locations, where monthly water sampling has been ongoing since the 1940s and 50s. These moored sensors now collect more than 50 data streams, including sampling for temperature, salinity and nutrients, carbon, currents, and both phytoplankton and zooplankton.

The authors of this study evaluated the utility of this network and found that it may aid in observation of extreme events, such as marine heat waves, rare events, such as plankton blooms, and allow for consistent large scale sampling and analysis of coastal zooplankton and phytoplankton communities. The NRS may provide scientists with an understanding of how large-scale, long-term change and variability in the global ocean are affecting Australia's coastal seas and ecosystems.

Lead author, Dr Tim Lynch from CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, says, "For the first time in Australia, we have combined forces across our various marine institutes and research organisations to build a continent-wide sampling of our coastal seas and ecosystems, so we can continuously track and understand variation at daily, seasonal, and annual time scales."


All of the data are made freely and publically available via the IMOS Ocean Portal

Adapted by PLOS ONE from release provided by the author

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper:

Citation: Lynch TP, Morello EB, Evans K, Richardson AJ, Rochester W, et al. (2014) IMOS National Reference Stations: A Continental-Wide Physical, Chemical and Biological Coastal Observing System. PLoS ONE 9(12): e113652. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113652

Funding: Funding for the development of the extended NRS described here was provided by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (2007-2011), the Education Investment Fund (2009-2013) and the Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (2013-2014). Co-investment has been provided by the Queensland and New South Wales State Government, the Northern Territory Government, the Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the South Australian Research and Development Institute. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors declare that there are no competing interests.

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