The approved survey to the Gascoyne canyons aims to map the surrounding marine park using multibeam sonar and to characterise the biodiversity of North-West canyon fauna, using an ROV to undertake a comprehensive taxon inventory and eDNA analyses to provide a methodological comparison. The proposed project will extend the survey’s capability and increase its relevance to marine park management, particularly in deep-sea and canyon habitats. The proposed project will yield communication products such as a fly-through, eco-narrative, and image library, as well as products consistent with previous NESP reporting such as a voyage plan and post-survey report.
Very little is known about the deep waters of Australia’s marine parks. Recent NESP-supported surveys have targeted eastern abyssal depths and Tasmanian seamounts (NESP Project D4), but there have been no similar efforts in Western Australia. To counter this information deficit, we plan to actively 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. Standard operating procedures for marine sampling (multibeam, survey design) will be followed, with other sampling platforms (e-DNA, ROV) informing future SOPs (NESP Project D2
Information from this survey will greatly enhance our understanding of the Gascoyne Marine Park and deep-sea environments throughout Western Australia, as well as facilitating comparisons between recent deep-sea information from eastern and southern Australia. This information will be applied to generate data and communication products useful to Parks Australia in their management of this region, as well as other research agencies undertaking current projects in the region (e.g. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Western Australian Museum). In addition, the baseline data will inform industry activities in the North-West. Specifically:
- The resulting faunal inventory provides baseline environmental information fundamental to monitoring undertaken in deep water WA environments. This may then be used to assess impacts of natural and anthropogenic activities that occur in the region (e.g. heat waves, petroleum exploration and extraction).
- The seafloor mapping will extend our map of the Gascoyne Marine Park and develop the regional context of canyon habitats in which to interpret the faunal inventory.
- The repeat mapping area will provide information on sediment and bedform mobility in the canyons of the Gascoyne Marine park, illustrating a rare case of true monitoring using multibeam in Australian waters.
- The e-DNA component will serve as a comparison to more traditional techniques to inform future baseline and monitoring approaches that may be suitable (or unsuitable) for marine park management, thereby informing future SOPs that may develop.
- The use of a state-of-the-art ROV will provide information to improve the ROV field manual to be added to the existing suite of standard operating procedures supported by Parks Australia
The funding requested in the current project will ensure that the above outcomes are able to be achieved in a timely manner and by the end of the current Hub. In addition, the proposed project will include the development of data and communication products directly informed by and relevant to Parks Australia.