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Open water (pelagic) ecosystem and environmental drivers

Profiling multi-frequency acoustic and optical system for detecting and quantifying the micronekton (small fish, squids, crustaceans and larger gelatinous organisms).

The Great Australian Bight supports some of Australia's largest commercial fisheries and a range of marine species of high conservation value.

A better understanding of food web structure and function in the Bight ecosystem is needed to help predict the effects of human activities in the region.

The pelagic theme will focus on:

  • assessing the implications of variations in the composition and size distribution of microbial and planktonic communities in the shelf waters of the Bight on the food web; and
  • identify the ecological processes that support and drive the key links in the Bight's deep water food chain, and how they affect the overall ecosystem.

A deeper understanding of the Bight's ecosystem will underpin sustainable management practices for this important marine environment.

Open water (pelagic) research projects

Spatial and temporal variability of shelf plankton communities. Project Leader: Dr Paul van Ruth, SARDI. 
Fact sheet: Forecasting productivity in the Great Australian Bight fact sheet (PDF 311KB).

Characterise seasonal and spatial variability of offshore/slope plankton and micronekton communities. Project Leader: Dr Rudy Kloser, CSIRO
Fact sheet: Sizing up the food chain: what drives the Great Australian Bight ecosystem? (PDF

Open water (pelagic) team

Final reports

Kloser R and van Ruth P (2017). Theme 2: Pelagic Ecosystem and Environmental Drivers. Theme Report. Great Australian Bight Research Program, GABRP Research Report Series Number 35, 21pp.


Great Australian Bight survey (external website)
Aboard Australia's previous Marine National research vessel, the Southern Surveyor, scientists surveyed the Bight in depths of 200 to 2000 metres - collecting the deepest set of samples ever taken from the area (video).

Marine National Facility (MNF) (external website)
Funded by the Australian Government and operated by CSIRO, the Marine National Facility provides a blue-water research capability to the Australian scientific community and their international collaborators. The 94m research vessel, Investigator, enables multidisciplinary research in the oceans and seas around Australia. The Great Australian Bight Research Program is chartering the Investigator for a month voyage in 2015 to characterise deep-water pelagic and benthic community structure and identify key ecological processes in the Great Australian Bight.

Southern Surveyor - research charter, April 2013 (external website)
Previously part of Australia's Marine National Facility, the Southern Surveyor was chartered by the Great Australian Bight Research Program in April 2013 to undertake a survey of the Great Australian Bight. The charter focused on studying the benthic ecosystems and and natural hydrocarbon seepage in deep (200-3,000m) waters of the region. Details of the voyage are available on CSIRO's Ocean's and Atmosphere's webpage.



The Great Australian Bight Research Program is a collaboration between BP, CSIRO, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University.