Seabed habitats and their adjacent biodiversity

Using the RV Solander, AIMS researchers are gathering detailed information about the Western Australian shelf for the North West Shoals to Shore Program.

Past sea level change has resulted in drowned coastlines around Australia’s margin, one of which is the Ancient Coastline Key Ecological Feature (KEF) at 125m depth in the northwest marine region. This submerged coastline is made of hard seafloor, an uncommon feature at that depth.

We know very little about the marine plants and animals of this area, but to manage them, we need to develop a full picture of where they are and which ones live close to the sea floor. With this information on hand, managers can evaluate the impact of a range of activities from industries such as oil and gas, fisheries and aquaculture as well as assess the effectiveness of marine protected areas.

To do this, researchers are generating detailed maps of the habitats in the region for the first time. They are mapping the seafloor and collecting information about the water above it. They are also surveying marine life in the area using a range of techniques including towed video and baited remote underwater video systems. This data is being gathered from our ship, the RV Solander.

Researchers will use this information to develop mathematical models that can help them accurately predict the location of important habitats throughout the entire region.

Given their value to industry, there is also a need to better understand the location of pearl oysters in shallow and deep water. Researchers are finding these oyster populations and studying how deep water oysters are connected to those that live in shallow, fished areas.