More than 60 new species have been discovered in the Great Australian Bight as part of one of the largest whole-of-ecosystem studies undertaken in Australian waters.
The new discoveries were made during the initial three years of the Great Australian Bight Research Program.
The $20 million program is a collaboration between BP, CSIRO, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University. The four-year program aims to provide a whole-of-system understanding of the environmental, economic and social values of the region.
Significant data and thousands of research samples which underpin the work completed have been collected on the program’s two major sea expeditions, the 23-day RV Investigator voyage in December 2015 and the 20-day RV Southern Surveyor voyage in April 2013. The samples of animals from the seafloor were collected from depths of between 100 m to 3,000 m.
“A great deal of scientific progress and new discoveries have been made over the last three years and the highly successful voyages into the waters of the Great Australian Bight have been a significant part of the research program,” Dr Steve Lapidge, Research Director of the Great Australian Bight Research Program, said.
“These discoveries are new to science and highlight the importance of this program in dramatically improving our understanding of the deep water systems of the Great Australian Bight, an important but largely unexplored area.
“With the wealth of new information gained through the program about the workings of the entire ecosystem of the Great Australian Bight, this research will help to ensure the sustainability of any future development in the region.”
Other achievements include:
- one of the most comprehensive collections of marine animal movement tracking data in the Southern Hemisphere. The findings will help identify biologically important regions in the Bight used by a range of species.
- understanding when and where smaller prey animals that underpin the food chain are plentiful in the open ocean and how this may affect top marine predators.
- a major collection of seafloor fauna from depths down to 3,000 m. The information from this study, along with analysis of 20,000 historical deep water invertebrate specimen samples held by Australian museums that were compiled and mapped by the program team, provides a comprehensive understanding of the deep sea communities in this region.
- the development of fine-scale oceanography models to better understand the ocean movements and currents in the Great Australian Bight. A key benefit is understanding how ocean movements influence changes in the availability of nutrients that underpin the food chain in different regions of the Great Australian Bight.
Upon completion in mid-2017 the program will provide a significant, freely-available source of information about the workings of the entire ecosystem of the Great Australian Bight.
The achievements are outlined in The Great Australian Research Program 2016 Progress Report. To download the report or for more information on the Great Australian Bight Research Program visit: https://www.misa.net.au/GAB
Notes to editors
Photographs available on request
Communications Adviser, South Australian Research and Development Institute
Phone: 0423 292 867