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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Ever wondered what the weird and wonderful inhabitants of Australia’s Marine National Parks look like? Scientists are developing an easy access, high-quality catalogue of media-ready content to put a face to the unique and quirky organisms that call the deep reefs of Australia’s southern Marine Parks home. Led by scientists from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the University of Western Australia’s The Ocean’s Institute, the project is designed to bring the science of our marine parks to life.

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A second survey of the fish, lobster and non-mobile seafloor organisms in shelf waters within the Tasman Fracture Marine Park (TFMP) was conducted in 2021, following initial surveys in 2014/15. The broad aim was to look at changes in the no-take National Park Zone (NPZ) following protection, relative to adjacent fished locations both within the park and in nearby areas. The 2021 surveys reinforced the status of the TFMP as a biodiverse Marine Park within the SE Marine Park Network. Of special interest was the observation of rare and endangered species such as a pink handfish and a collar seahorse.
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In collaboration with Norfolk Island residents, a drop-camera system was used to ground-truth the marine habitat classifications derived from satellite imagery of the ecosystems surrounding Norfolk, Nepean, and Phillip Islands. This resulted in the first marine habitat map for Norfolk Marine Park.
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A seagrass meadow 65 km long to 9.7 m depth and extending 7–8 km from shore was discovered during benthic habitat surveys of the Limmen Marine Park and adjacent Limmen Bight Marine Park by li-Anthawirriyarra Rangers and scientists. Soft corals, hard corals and sponges also formed habitat through much of the Limmen Marine Park
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Nelson Marine Park contains complex undersea topography, including lower-slope and abyssal ecosystems. It covers representative areas of the West Tasmania Transition bioregion.

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South Tasman Rise Park contains a cluster of distinctive seamounts characterised by flat tops that potentially encompass many shelf reef habitats. The seamount areas are highly productive with diverse coral assemblages, which have been the target of historical commercial fishing efforts for decades owing to their ability to support vast fish assemblages1. The park covers representative areas of the Tasmania Province bioregion.

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Tasman Fracture Marine Park contains deep reefs, seamounts and a fracture zone unique to the network. Small high-profile deep (rariphotic) reefs occur in the north-western and eastern sections along with an isolated high-profile reef in the north-eastern sector, south-east of the Mewstone2. The park covers representative areas of four bioregions.

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    Zeehan Marine Park displays low-profile platform reef across much of the shelf area. The eastern edge of the park is smooth and undulating before changing in the mid shelf to a more corrugated pavement characterised by 3-5m high ledges with flat faces. The park covers representative areas of four bioregions.

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    Murray Marine Park contains highly varied geomorphology throughout the park, potentially encompassing many shelf reef habitats. The northern edge consists predominately of Lacepede shelf, a large shelf area intersected by ancient channels of the Murray River that converge at the head of Sprigg canyon on the continental shelf2. It covers representative areas of four bioregions.

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      Franklin Marine Park is dominated by shelf unvegetated sediment habitat with high-profile deep reef features in the northern section. It covers representative areas of four bioregions. The northern section of the park contains complex reef likely formed by volcanic lava flows, which at its shallowest depths of 35m support kelp forests (Ecklonia radiata) - a rare habitat type in Australian Marine Parks.

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