Life on Australian Continental Shelf Mapped

A three year research program brought together five Australian research agencies to combine their skills and resources to map all life on Australia’s continental shelf.

The Marine Biodiversity Research Hub brought together the University of Tasmania, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Museum Victoria under the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities program, and was led by Professor Nic Bax of CSIRO and the University of Tasmania.

“The program compiled existing biological survey datasets, mapped 1868 square kilometres of seabed with multibeam sonar, recorded 171 km of underwater video, and collected nearly 1000 samples of seabed sediments and marine life,” Professor Bax said.

“At a national level we identified 37 environmental factors that shape seabed life, such as depth, oceanography, the type of seafloor, food availability, and the strength of currents and waves. Statistical modelling was then used to predict seabed biodiversity, at a scale of one km 2, across more than two million km 2of the continental shelf.”

“Genetic techniques examined the links between biodiversity in different areas, and economic studies examined new options for biodiversity management.”

Bax continued to say that the new maps and knowledge compiled by the three year program highlight the intricate patterns of biodiversity across Australia’s shelf habitats, while simultaneously reminding us just how little we know.

Some of the maps have already been put to use by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) to improve its understanding of Australia’s oceans as part of the marine bioregional planning process, while going forth, all the information will be incorporated into the Australia Ocean Data Network and the Atlas of Living Australia to improve access to essential information on Australia’s biodiversity.

Source: CSIRO Australia
Image Source: jdegenhardt

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