Observed distribution of 13 marine species in the Marine Parks of the North and North-West

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Overview Map

Where: North and North West networks

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

When: 2016

Why: Managers of our Marine Parks need to know what lives in the Parks to help manage them into the future. This includes species that live on the sea floor, such as those that create habitat (including sponges and corals) that support many other creatures, species that play a key role in nutrient cycling (such as molluscs and brittlestars), are species that are important indicators of environmental stress (polychaetes, molluscs). It also includes species that move in and through the Marine Parks such as fish, sharks, marine mammals, turtles and seabirds.

How: We synthesised data from ten publically available datasets, including:

From these datasets, we found all locations within Marine Parks where key habitat-forming animals, environmental indicator species, and megafauna (13 groups in total) had been observed. We were then able to summarise the information across all taxa to understand how much we currently know about biodiversity in Marine Parks of the North and Northwest. And, importantly, we could then identify Marine Parks with the largest gaps in our knowledge.

What did we learn? Click on the links in the table below to see interactive maps of where species groups were observed across each Marine Park. In each map, a red square indicates that at least one species group was observed. Click on any red square to see how many individuals were seen.

Lives on the sea floor Stays near the sea floor Ranges widely
Hard coral Demersal fish Marine mammals
Soft coral Demersal sharks and rays Sea turtles
Sponges   Seabirds
Brittle stars   Pelagic fish
Polychaetes   Pelagic sharks and rays
Molluscs    

However, these Parks are known to have been surveyed many times by a range of scientific expeditions compared with other Parks that may have rarely been visited. So this result is linked to survey effort, and thus does not necessarily mean that species groups don't occur in other parks.

It is very unlikely that no marine species exist in these Parks. Instead, the lack of data has resulted from relatively little scientific research having been done in the parks. Our data synthesis has helped identify these data-poor areas, so that steps can be taken in future to fill these data gaps.

What next? The results of this analysis have already fed into decision-making within the NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub to prioritise future field surveys that will gather baseline knowledge about Marine Parks. For example, a survey planned for 2019 will address the lack of data available in the Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park.

Related data and publications:

Miller K, Puotinen M, Przeslawski R, Huang Z, Bouchet P, Radford B, Li J, Kool J, Picard K, Thums M, Nichol, S (2016). Ecosystem Understanding to Support Sustainable Use, Management and Monitoring of Marine Assets in the North and North-West Regions: Final Report for NESP D1 2016e. Report to the National Environmental Science Program, Marine Biodiversity Hub. Australian Institute of Marine Science. 146pp.

For more information please contact marinescience@environment.gov.au