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Sea floor (benthic) biodiversity

One of the many interesting and unusual seabed animals collected during a project survey, the crab Ebalia tuberculosa from 400m depth.

The Great Australian Bight is a unique marine environment. Over 85 percent of known species in the region are found nowhere else in the world.

A baseline record of economically and socially important deep marine habitats (deeper than 200m) in the Great Australian Bight is needed as a foundation for assessing any impacts from development.

Despite the typically high conservation significance of sea floor (benthic) communities, little is known about their diversity and distribution on the continental slope of the Bight.

In a pioneering study, researchers are charactersing the biological diversity and structure of these sea floor communities and identifying 'markers' for measuring any impacts stemming from human activities.

Sea floor (benthic) projects

Great Australian Bight biodiversity characterisation. Principal Investigator: Dr Alan Williams, CSIRO.

This project will map benthic communities and corresponding patterns in the physical environment for the first time in selected exploration leases and adjacent continental slope areas of the Bight - including the Great Australian Bight Marine Park.

This research will provide the basis for innovative, cost-effective ecological monitoring programs to accompany future development in the deep waters of the Great Australian Bight.

Fact sheet: Mapping life of the deep sea floor fact sheet (PDF 299KB)

Molecular assessment of benthic and pelagic biodiversity in the Great Australian Bight. Principal Investigator: Associated Professor Jason Tanner, SARDI

This project will develop a range of genetic tools to rapidly and cost-effectively assess the biodiversity in the deep sea ecosystem of the Great Australian Bight. These tools in particular focus on the smaller organisms, small worms and crustaceans as well as hydrocarbon degrading microbes, which actually form a large component of the fauna, and which can play a critical role in ecosystem functioning.

Rapid and cost-effective ecological monitoring of changes in biodiversity will allow ecosystem managers to detect fine scale changes due to natural and anthropogenic impacts to better manage biodiversity conservation. Knowledge of the ecosystems natural ability to bioremediate oils will assist in responding to any accidental release of hydrocarbons.

Fact sheet: Genetic tools for mapping life in the deep sea (PDF 302KB)

Sea floor (benthic) team 

Final reports

Williams A and Tanner J.E (2017). Theme 3: Characterisation and assessment of deep-sea benthic biodiversity in the Great Australian Bight. Theme Report. Great Australian Bight Research Program, GABRP Research Report Series Number 36, 16pp.


Great Australian Bight macroinfauna scratchpad (external website)
Part of the Great Australian Bight Research Program's activities have included a benthic survey at sites including the Great Australian Bight Marine Park and within selected lease blocks at depths of 200 to 2000m. The survey aims to identify biodiversity metrics such as endemism or species richness and provide baseline data against which possible future human impact might be measured. Identification and analysis of macroinfaunal invertibrates was carried out by taxonomists at Museum Victoria.

The scratchpad website summarises the diversity of taxa from this research and serve as a repository for the taxonomic data, basic descriptions, images and illustrations of these macroinfauna.

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.

Museum Victoria (external website)
Museum Victoria undertakes research in the fields of science and humanities, using the museum's collections and expert staff to further what we know about the social and natural history of Victoria and beyond. Taxonomists at the museum will be identify and analyse infauna and larger organisms recovered from deep water sediments collected during the Great Australian Research Program voyages. This information will help characterise the biological diversity and structure of sea floor communities 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.