Gifford: Review of the Science

CC BY NC ND by Geoscience Australia
Overview Map


Gifford Marine Park


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 Gifford 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 analyses of new survey data to provide an overview of what is known about the Gifford Marine Park, in particular to summarise its oceanographic, geomorphic and biological values.

What did we learn?

The Gifford Marine Park is dominated by two submerged flat-topped seamounts (guyots) that rise up to three kilometres above the surrounding abyssal plain and provide a diversity of benthic environments. These range from gently sloping plains atop the seamount plateaus to near-vertical towering cliffs of exposed bedrock that encircle both seamounts, and abyssal plains that characterise the northern third of the park. The upper to mid slopes of the seamounts are characterised by erosion scars and depositional cones from landslides, and illustrate the processes by which these extant volcanic features are undergoing escarpment retreat.

What next?

The key gaps in our knowledge of the park are its specific oceanographic processes and its ecological significance. Targeted oceanographic sampling and more extensive biological surveys over both seamounts are needed to help us understand, for example, why species richness and abundance observed by surveys was lower than expected. This is important because the extensive escarpment surfaces and the relatively shallow plateau surfaces should provide important habitat for sparse epibenthic communities. Such surveys are also needed to develop a more informed overall assessment of the biological significance of the park ecosystem and identify potential anthropogenic threats to park health.


Read the full report

Watch video: 'Seafloor bathymetry of the Gifford Marine Park'