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Benthic community production


Benthic community production and response to environmental forcing

Other Details: 

Kimberly Marine Research Program: Project 2.2.3
Location: Bucaneer Archipelago
Project Leader: Ryan Lowe, UWA
Telephone: 6488 2706

Final Report

Benthic community production and response to environmental forcing__WAMSI KMRP Project 2.2.3_Lowe et al 2016_Final


  • Understand the productivity and growth rates of communities of organisms on fringing reefs in the west Kimberley
  • Investigate the influence that ocean conditions (such as large tides) and seasonal changes (such as the monsoon) play on reef productivity rates
  • Trace the sources of material feeding reefs to their ocean or land origins

Proposed Methods

  • Record water motion and water quality on a fringing reef for short periods by deploying small, non-invasive oceanographic instruments
  • Collect water samples from atop fringing reefs and the surrounding ocean to test for nutrient and oxygen levels
  • Use small benthic chambers at some sites to directly measure production and respiration rates to compare with the water quality measurements
  • Conduct surveys of King Sound to monitor water quality over the year
  • Use computer simulations to understand water motion around reefs and the delivery of material from land

Project Duration -2013-2015

  • Field sampling will take place twice yearly, once in March and once in August, during both 2013 and 2014.  The first trip will be in April or May 2013.
  • Trips will be roughly 2 weeks in length, based out of the Kimberley Marine Research Station (KMRS) in Cygnet Bay

Geographic Range

  • Broad scale sampling in King Sound will take place at the stations shown above
  • Studies of the fringing reef platform will take place at Tallon Island


  • Demonstration of the uniqueness of Kimberley fringing reefs and comparison to other Australian reef systems
  • Key baseline information to support longer-term reef monitoring or management plans
  • Build capacity amongst Indigenous ranger groups through training of the key methodologies used in the research as well knowledge transfer of the key results.

Longer term goals beyond the life of the project

To provide scientific outcomes that inform and direct management plans for reef systems in the Kimberley region


  1. Lowe R et al. Physical drivers of reefs in the Kimberley. 2017 WAMSI Research Conference (audio) Presentation slides
  2. Gruber R et al. Reef production and nutrient uptake  2017 WAMSI Research Conference  (audio) Presentation slides
  3. DPaW Lunch and Learn Seminar: Environmental forcing of benthic community productivity within the Kimberley’s macrotidal reefs presented by Ryan Lowe (14 April 2016)
  4. Science on the Broome Coast: Kimberley tides and ocean circulation

Research Articles

  1. Gruber R, Lowe R, Falter J. (2019) Tidal and seasonal forcing of dissolved nutrient fluxes in reef communities. Biogeosciences
  2. Gruber R, Lowe R, Falter J (2018) Benthic uptake of phytoplankton and ocean-reef exchange of particulate nutrients on a tide-dominated reef. Limnology and Oceanography doi: 10.1002/lno.10790
  3. Lowe R.J., Pivan X, Falter J, Symonds G, Gruber R (August 2016) Rising sea levels will reduce extreme temperature variations in tide-dominated reef habitats Science Advances DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600825
  4. S. S. Dandan , J. L. Falter, R. J. Lowe, M. T. McCulloch Resilience of coral calcification to extreme temperature variations in the Kimberley region, northwest Australia Coral Reefs ISSN: 0722-4028 (Print) 1432-0975 (Online) pp 1-13 First online: 09 August 2015 DOI 10.1007/s00338-015-1335-6
  5. Ryan J. Lowe, Arturo S. Leon, Graham Symonds, James L. Falter, and Renee Gruber The intertidal hydraulics of tide-dominated reef platforms Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans Volume 120, Issue 7 July 2015 Pages 4845–4868 DOI: 10.1002/2015JC010701
  6. Jiangtao Xua, Ryan J. Lowe, Gregory N. Ivey, Nicole L. Jones and Richard Brinkman Observations of the shelf circulation dynamics along Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia during the austral spring and summer. Continental Shelf Research Volume 95, 1 March 2015, Pages 54–73 doi:10.1016/j.csr.2014.12.013
  7. Ryan J. Lowe and James L. Falter Oceanic Forcing of Coral Reefs  Annual Review of Marine Science 2015. 7:43–66 doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010814-015834 view on the website
  8. N.L. Jones, N.L. Patten, D.L. Krikke, R.J. Lowe, A.M. Waite, G.N. Ivey Biophysical characteristics of a morphologically-complex macrotidal tropical coastal system during a dry season Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science Volume 149, 5 August 2014, Pages 96–108 doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2014.07.01

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