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

Biodiversity and ecology

Biodiversity describes the variety of life found in the environment, from genes to ecosystems.

Australia's tropical oceans contain some of the most iconic and diverse marine habitats and organisms on Earth. These organisms range from corals and fish to microbes, whose importance in regulating the global climate is only beginning to be understood.

These highly diverse marine ecosystems are also subject to natural and human-induced stresses, which now threaten many habitats and organisms.

Our research aims to understand and protect Australia’s rich tropical marine biodiversity by investigating:

  • the sources of environmental stress and the response of tropical marine ecosystems to it
  • the trends of ecosystem health in particular coral reefs
  • the scope of reefs to maintain resilience and recover.

Through extensive monitoring and surveys, AIMS has built data sets from habitats such as coral reefs, the seabed and open deep water.

We also map and predict biodiversity patterns, which identify areas of rich or unique biodiversity and provide a baseline against which changes can be measured.

These surveys also help us to study how the environment affects the distribution, abundance and connectivity of living organisms, and to detect the presence of biodiversity threats such as pests, disease, climate change and poor water quality.