Joseph Bonaparte Gulf - Review of the Science

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Joseph Bonaparte Gulf


Researchers from the Marine Biodiversity Hub of the National Environmental Science Programme




Managers need to understand not only what exists in a Marine Park, but also the key processes that sustain and/or threaten the Park. The eco-narrative series synthesises our existing knowledge of Australia's individual Marine Parks to enable managers to understand the ecological characteristics of each park and highlight knowledge gaps for future research focus. The information in this eco-narrative forms an initial characterisation of Joseph Bonaparte Marine Park. Our knowledge of the park is such that we can now better understand its ecosystem structure, which can be used to inform management and monitoring into the future.


Researchers reviewed published literature and undertook new data analyses to provide an overview of what is known about the Joseph Bonaparte Marine Park, in particular to summarise its oceanographic, geomorphic and biological values.

What did we learn?

The Park is shaped by seasonal river inflow, strong tidal currents and regular cyclones, which results in high turbidity, rich nutrient levels and active sediment transport. The sea floor within the Park contains valleys up to 40 m deep and channels, tidal sand bars, gently sloping plains and small areas of localised reef. Tidal currents also shape the sand bars, which rise up to 15 m above the seabed and extend up to 20 km offshore. Reefs are restricted to small patch reefs in the northern part of the park, where they rise to within 2-3 m of the sea surface.

What next?

The key gap in our knowledge of the park is of its biological communities. These are likely to include patch reefs, sparse sponge and soft coral communities; which may in turn support a range of pelagic megafauna (including a variety of dolphins and turtles), the endangered Northern River shark, sawfish, stingray and catfish, sea snakes, and a range of demersal tropical fish species. Once more work is done to document these communities, a further study to explore how warming surface waters, marine heat waves and fishing activities are affecting them would be valuable.


Read the full report