Diverse coral assemblages in south Scott Reef Lagoon, Northwest Shelf. Photo: James Colquhoun.

Australia's tropical marine territories contain some of the most iconic marine habitats on Earth, supporting a huge diversity of living organisms: from marine microbes, whose importance in regulating the global climate is only beginning to be understood, to iconic yet endangered whale sharks.

The biological diversity or biodiversity of an ecosystem describes the variety of life found within it. Through detailed surveys, AIMS scientists have built collections from and biodiversity maps of specific habitats including coral reefs, the seabed and open deepwater. These maps are used to identify and protect areas of rich or unique biodiversity and provide a baseline against which changes are measured.

Through comprehensive monitoring, AIMS ecologists are able to study how the distribution and abundance of living organisms are affected by their environment and detect the presence of threats to the existing biodiversity such as pests, disease and climate change.