Perth Canyon: review of the science

Overview Map


Perth Canyon 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 EcoNarrative 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 Perth Canyon Marine Park. Our knowledge of the park, and of the Perth Canyon in particular, 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 Perth Canyon Marine Park, in particular to summarise its oceanographic, geomorphic and biological values.

What did we learn?

Perth Canyon Marine Park encompasses a diversity of benthic environments, ranging from gently sloping soft sediment plains to near-vertical towering cliffs of exposed bedrock. This geodiversity extends from the head of Perth Canyon at the shelf break to the slope-confined submarine canyons that dissect the lower continental slope. Spanning almost 4.5 km of ocean depths, the Perth Canyon dominates the park and has a significant influence on the local ecosystem across the food chain. The size and location of the canyon is such that it promotes upwelling from the deep ocean, leading to plankton blooms that attract seasonal aggregations of larger pelagic fish, including whales. Over geological time, the canyon has evolved to provide extensive areas of benthic habitat suitable for deep-sea corals and sponges. The park is not without environmental pressures, however, with evidence that marine heat waves can affect the health of the ecosystem at upper trophic levels.

What next?

The key gap in our knowledge of the park is in the deepest areas, particularly for benthic communities on the lower continental slope to abyss. Targeted oceanographic and biological surveys covering these deep-water locations and to understand links between the deepest areas and the Perth Canyon in particular would contribute to an improved overall understanding of the park ecosystem. The importance of the Perth Canyon Marine Park to seabird communities is also a recognised gap in our knowledge of this ecosystem.


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