This project explores the deep waters offshore Western Australia in collaboration with Minderoo Foundation, WA Museum, and Parks Australia. This project is funded by The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, through the Our Marine Parks Grants program and operated under Parks Australia. The key aim of the project is to explore the biology, ecology, geomorphology, and oceanography at the deepest parts of the Gascoyne Marine Reserve (GMR), Perth Canyon Marine Reserve (PCMR), and South-west Corner Marine Reserve (SWCMR).
The project has 3 key operations
(1) deploy a long-term observatory in the PCMR and another in the GMR to understand how these deep-sea environments change over time;
(2) deploy baited landers throughout both marine reserves to understand the distribution and abundance of bait attending fauna; and
(3) collect crustaceans and fish to understand regional and global connectivity.
The project adopts three survey schemes including continuous long-term (18+ months) surveys using deep-sea observatories, short-term (7 hours) surveys and trapping using baited landers, and multibeam echo sounding. Research in this project targets the abyssal plains located at the mouth of three iconic submarine canyons in Western Australia – Cape Range, Cloates Canyon, and Perth Canyon – as well as the deepest location off mainland Australia, the Diamantina Fracture Zone (DFZ) in the SWCMR. Each location is unique with regards to latitude, depth (GMR – 5700 m, PCMR – 4600 m, SWCMR – 6200 m), surface productivity, and oceanography which will allow the research team to explore patterns in fauna diversity, abundance, and distribution. The team will combine these data to produce a geological description and high-resolution map of each region as well as daily/seasonal changes in fauna and oceanographic conditions (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, current velocity, and direction).
The long-term observatories were deployed on the Perth Abyssal Plain (PCMR) at 4300m water depth and the Cuvier Abyssal Plain (GMR) at 5100 m water depth in May 2023, and will record data for six months before requiring servicing and re-deployment. These systems will provide researchers with unique insight into the role Australian Marine Parks play in protecting the deep sea.
Andrew Hosie (WA Museum)
A) Schematic of observatory rigging subsurface; B) theoretical arrangement of observatory system on the surface for retrieval; C) observatory system housing a camera, light, power system, oceanographic equipment (CTD and current sensor), one piece of syntactic foam and six glass spheres in a polyethylene container.
Location of study areas; Perth Canyon Marine Reserve and Gascoyne Marine Reserve.
A dramatic appearance from Enypniastes sp. in the Gascoyne Marine Reserve at 1153m deep.
Synaphobranchus sp. checking out the bait in the Gascoyne Marine Reserve at 1153m deep.
(Photo copyright Giacomo Dorlando)