Arafura Marine Park: Post Survey Report

This technical report presents preliminary results and observations of a seabed mapping and biodiversity survey of Arafura Marine Park within the North Marine Park network, undertaken in 2020 by the Australian Institute Marine Science and Geoscience Australia. The primary audience includes researchers and managers of the North Marine Parks and traditional owners of Sea Country in the Arafura Sea region. The objective of the survey was to collect field data to build baseline information by characterising benthic habitats in shelf waters of Arafura Marine Park that will support ongoing monitoring of the park. Bathymetry mapping and underwater imagery were collected in two areas of the park, Money Shoal on the inner continental shelf and Pillar Bank on the outer shelf. These data reveal that Money Shoal supports a diverse shallow water coral and demersal fish community as evidence for the conservation values of the marine park, and which suggest it is unique within its regional setting. Pillar Bank, in contrast, is clearly a different habitat, but is an extensive area within the park that supports benthic communities on hard substrate, albeit sparse in their distribution. Further analysis will be undertaken to quantify the abundance and diversity of these biological communities and to better understand the influence of environmental gradients across the marine park. These new data provide detailed insights into the distribution of sediment-dominated and hardground habitat within Arafura Marine Park, providing a baseline for the ongoing management of the benthic conservation values of this marine protected area.

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