Seamount coral survey 2018

Studying the biodiversity and recovery of deep-sea coral communities on seamounts in iconic Australian marine reserves.
Voyage No

IN2018_V06

22 Nov, 2018

to

17 Dec, 2018

Hobart

to

Hobart

Chief Scientist

Dr Alan Williams

Institution

CSIRO

Voyage summary

Research voyage to the Tasman Sea to study deep-sea coral communities on seamounts (undersea mountains) in two Australian Marine Parks and at three sites off the east coast of Tasmania.

Several of Australia's unique deep-sea coral reefs that are found on seamounts are protected in these marine reserves. Deep-sea coral reefs support highly diverse communities of seafloor life but are fragile and vulnerable to human disturbance, particularly from fishing by bottom trawling.

Scientists will conduct camera surveys to map the extent of the globally-significant deep-sea coral reefs and determine how much of the reef area lies within reserves. Scientists will also measure how the reefs have recovered from earlier trawling impacts since being protected in marine reserves. Data collected on this voyage will provide a baseline for future ecological monitoring.

There is one supplementary project on this voyage:

  • Spatial and temporal variability in the distribution and abundance of seabirds (Dr Eric Woehler, BirdLife Australia): Project to study the spatial and temporal distribution of seabirds and marine animals in the oceans around Australia (multi-year project).

Voyage blog:
Exploring Australia’s ‘other reefs’ south of Tasmania

This week we returned from a month-long research voyage on CSIRO research vessel Investigator, part of Australia’s Marine National Facility. We criss-crossed many seamounts in and near the Huon and Tasman Fracture Marine Parks, which are home to both pristine and previously fished coral reefs. These two parks are part of a larger network of Australian Marine Parks that surround Australia’s coastline and protect our offshore marine environment.

Read more on CSIROscope
A man wearing protective gear, holding an eel

Voyage outcomes

As a result of this voyage, researchers have a better understanding of the distribution of deep-sea coral reefs and their associated biodiversity.  Coral reefs were found to extend from seamounts onto adjacent rocky areas and occur on small ‘knoll-like’ features at the continental shelf edge. This considerably expands the previously known distribution of deep-sea coral reefs. 

High quality quantitative data on conservation status and recovery potential of deep-sea coral habitats was obtained, which will improve overall management and conservation of these important habitats. In areas previously impacted by bottom trawling but which are now protected, researchers identified some apparent signs of change. This data will also considerably increase the confidence in predictive models of coral distributions both nationally and internationally. 

A wide range of seabird observations were made during the voyage. This data will contribute to the wider BirdLife Australia project dataset and provide important information about the spatial and temporal distributions of seabirds.