Seabed habitats and their associated biodiversity

AIMS researchers prepare a towed video on RV Solander 

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

This hard seabed is thought to be an important habitat for many marine species, however we know very little about the marine animals of the AC KEF. To manage them, we need to develop a full picture of what and where they are. With this information, managers can evaluate the likely 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 understand the biodiversity, researchers are mapping the seafloor in detail 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 describe the ecosystems, assess their regional importance and develop mathematical models that will help them accurately predict the location of important habitats along the length of the AC KEF.

Understanding pearl oysters on the North West Shelf

Our researchers are using similar methods to understand the distribution of pearl oysters on the North West Shelf. Pearl oysters are a valuable industry in Western Australia. A better understanding of their preferred habitat will help the management of the fishery.

We are also using modern genetic techniques to understand how deep-water oysters are connected to those that live in shallow, fished areas.