Research

These short articles highlight the findings from ongoing scientific research within selected Marine Parks, including exciting new discoveries and ideas for future projects. If you are a scientist, read about how you can see your work featured in the Atlas.

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Over the last decade scientists at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) have been using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to conduct photographic surveys of seafloor (benthic) communities in Australian Marine Parks (AMPs) across the South-east Marine Parks Network (the SE Network). This project used this imagery to provide the first description of the biological communities across these marine parks and how they have changed over time.
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Environmental-economic accounting (EEA) is a powerful tool that enables policy and investment decisions to be made based on whole system analysis which integrates environmental, economic and social data. A pilot accounting project was undertaken for Geographe Marine Park. The EEA examined the location and condition of ecosystems, such as rocky reefs and seagrasses, and the value of ecosystem services, like commercial and recreational fishing and tourism.
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Ningaloo is famed for its corals, but new data has shone a light into the deeper waters and onto its sponge diversity, revealing the region is home to at least 16 new species previously unknown to science.
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A collaborative research voyage on the state-of the-art research vessel RV Investigator in 2018 explored Tasmania’s hidden seamounts (under-sea mountains). Extensive areas of deep-sea coral reefs supporting diverse communities were surveyed, mostly between 700 and 1500 metres below the sea surface. These seamount reefs represent a globally significant reference site to monitor recovery of deep-sea coral communities following the impacts sustained from bottom trawling in the 1990’s. We now better understand the biodiversity and distribution of these vulnerable ecosystems and their ability to recover from impacts such as a bottom trawling.
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The Great Australian Bight is one of the last strongholds of the charismatic Australian sea lion. Every year, researchers overcome the challenges of sheer cliffs and isolated rocky islands to count new pups, information that provides critical insights into how this threatened species is faring and how marine park managers can address existing and emerging threats.
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Acoustic mapping of one of northern Australia’s least studied coral shoals and searching for a shipwreck.
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Scientists have captured imagery of a newly discovered underwater landscape beneath the waves in Bass Strait, revealing a complex seabed of deep reefs that have been sustaining life for fish and other fauna for millennia. Using multibeam sonar, a team from Deakin University’s marine mapping group has scanned the seafloor in the Apollo Marine Park, south-west Victoria for the very first time.
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A re-survey of sites within the North-west Marine Park Network revealed an increase in fish biomass, richness, biomass of larger fishes, coral cover and macro-invertebrate density at Ashmore Reef Marine Park (IUCN Ia). Many of these changes were not recorded at fished reference sites, suggesting the strict sanctuary zoning is having a positive effect.
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In Autumn 2019, the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Science (IMAS) completed a two-week continuous multibeam mapping program in shelf waters of the Freycinet, Huon and Tasman Fracture Marine Parks to extend current knowledge of habitat distribution in these parks. In addition, several areas outside the park were mapped to provide external reference areas for the Tasman Fracture Marine Park. This mapping will underpin future biological inventory and monitoring programs.
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Fowlers Bay sits in the Great Australian Bight, immediately adjacent to the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. The bay is characterised by long stretches of wide, white sandy beaches and rocky headlands. To the east, they’re backed by towering sand dunes and to the west, immense 90 metre cliffs run for a 170 kilometre stretch. Exposed to south-easterly winds that drive large swells, the region is a popular haunt for the keen surfer and recreational fisherman. It is also known for its white shark population and thought to be prime habitat for juvenile white sharks.

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