Sponges on rocky reef at Beagle Marine Park
Sponges on a rocky reef at Beagle Marine Park. Image: IMAS/IMOS

Rocky reefs form an important habitat on Australia’s continental shelf and are recognised in marine bioregional plans as key ecological features (KEFs) that support a range of benthic and pelagic marine communities, including migratory species.

Despite their nationally significant status, little is known of the extent and nature of these systems beyond their value to the fishing industry. The extent of rocky reefs is poorly delineated across the continental shelf and in Australia’s marine reserve network and the impact and rate of recovery from pressures is virtually unknown. This information is critical for evaluating the need for, or consequences of, management strategies.

This project will collate data from government, industry and research agencies to map the extent and structure of rocky reef habitat around Australia's continental shelf, and identify critical gaps in this knowledge to be filled by targeted surveys.

Habitat modelling tools will be developed to support decision making at a regional scale and a national reef classification system will be developed based on geomorphology, biology, depth and latitude to provide a basis for predicting and describing associated biodiversity values.

Ultimately, the project will provide the essential background knowledge necessary to move from a survey design and evaluation phase to a considered program focused on monitoring ecosystem health for shelf reefs, a key ecological feature on Australia's continental shelf, and further our baseline understanding of shelf habitats in Australian Marine Parks.

(Previous project titles:
Evaluating and monitoring the status of marine biodiversity assets on the continental shelf
Preparing and implementing monitoring of CMRs and the status of marine biodiversity assets on the continental shelf)