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Biodiversity has intrinsic economic, social and economic values. Effective management of human impacts on marine biodiversity to protect these societal and natural values requires strong scientific knowledge and science-based management tools.

There are many gaps in this knowledge base. Research by the Exploring Marine Biodiversity team is designed to fill the gaps in understanding patterns and processes of tropical marine biodiversity.

In Western Australia the research focus is on three main areas - Ningaloo Reef, one of the largest and least studied coral reef ecosystems in the world; Scott Reef, a large oceanic reef system that is the site of rich oil and gas discoveries; and the Kimberley coast, a newly emerging area of great cultural and natural heritage value that is also the site of new mineral discoveries and industrial development.

At Ningaloo, the team is mapping deepwater communities, assessing distribution and abundance of target invertebrate species and developing efficient methods for monitoring the health of these systems.

The Scott Reef project is a collaboration with Woodside Energy Ltd to map and understand the benthic communities of Scott Reef (corals and fish) and to understand oceanographic processes in and around the reef.

In the Kimberley coastal region, the team is mapping benthic communities as a first step in understanding the community structure and the processes that drive productivity in the region. An initial study has been completed in collaboration with CSIRO and the WA Department of Conservation.

Because coral reefs host more species than any other marine ecosystem, they deserve considerable attention from scientists. The development of effective tools for their conservation and management will flow from better understanding of patterns and processes and of natural variability.

With high levels of biodiversity, however, comes complexity in the interacting processes. Understanding these conceptually difficult processes requires extensive data sets that describe the dynamics of many species simultaneously over long periods of time and/or extensive areas.

This team is in a unique position because of its access to long-term and spatially extensive data sets that AIMS has collected over past decades and through collaborations with industry, regulators and other scientific institutions, and the unique skills mix of the team in ecology, evolutionary biology, GIS, statistics and risk modelling.

The team is refining estimates of coral reef biodiversity and the risks they face, modelling the effects of environmental conditions on the spatial and temporal dynamics of reef biodiversity and providing better understanding of large-scale ecological processes.

Research Team Leader: Dr Jamie Oliver