Little is known about the deep waters of Australia’s marine parks. While surveys supported by the Hub have visited eastern abyssal depths and Tasmanian seamounts, Western Australian areas are lesser known. This project will map and sample two significant and biologically unexplored submarine canyons (Cape Range and Cloates Canyon) in the habitat protection and multiple use zones of the Gascoyne Marine Park. The survey will be carried out by a collaborative team onboard the United States Schmidt Ocean Institute's RV Falkor, which operates the SuBastian romotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Multibeam sonar, environmental DNA (e-DNA) and ROV sampling will characterise the canyon habitats and biodiversity, while applying and further developing the Hub's standard operating procedures for marine sampling. The survey will greatly enhance understanding of the Gascoyne Marine Park and deep-sea environments off Western Australia, and enable comparisons with eastern and southern Australia. Data and communication products will be generated to support the management of this region by Parks Australia, and the work of other research agancies including the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Western Australian Museum.
The baseline data will also support industry activities by:
- providing baseline environmental information essential to monitoring deep water WA environments and assessing impacts of natural and human activities (heat waves, petroleum exploration and extraction);
- extending seafloor mapping of Gascoyne Marine Park and developing the regional knowledge of canyon habitats;
- repeat mapping to assess bedform mobility in the canyons of the Gascoyne Marine Park;
- testing e-DNA smapling against more traditional monitoring approaches; and
- enhancing the ROV field manual to be added to the existing suite of standard operating procedures supported by Parks Australia.