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Habitats and biodiversity of Ningaloo Reef lagoon

van Keulen, M.ORCID: 0000-0001-6235-5788, Langdon, M., Fromont, J. and Schlacher, M. (2011) Habitats and biodiversity of Ningaloo Reef lagoon. In: 48th Annual Conference of the Australian Marine Science Association, 3 - 7 July, Fremantle, Western Australia.


Surveys were undertaken of key invertebrate and plant groups in lagoon areas throughout the Ningaloo Marine Park, focussing on identifying and quantifying soft corals, sponges, echinoderms (urchins and sea cucumbers) and seagrasses; this information was linked to the underlying habitat structure in the Ningaloo Reef lagoons, used in a parallel habitat mapping project based on hyperspectral aerial photography. The biodiversity surveys conducted throughout the Ningaloo Reef system have shown that there are clear differences in the lagoon systems in different parts of the Marine Park, with clear biogeographic separation of sponges, soft corals and seagrasses. This has important implications for the distribution and abundance of many animals, including some of commercial importance. The northern section of the Marine Park (north of Point Cloates) is more strongly tropical than the southern section, which has many temperate species present. There are also several locations within the Ningaloo Reef system that are quite unique and don’t necessarily match the surrounding lagoon environment. Examples include Coral Bay, Bateman Bay and the Point Cloates region. These observations will be important in the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park; the northern and southern sections of the Marine Park may need to be managed differently. Surveying biological groups over the whole Marine Park is difficult and time consuming; further sampling in more locations and at different times of year are required to build on the findings of our study. There are clear seasonal differences in primary productivity in the lagoons, which likely drive significant community-wide changes throughout the year. These seasonal variations will also affect the validity of the habitat maps, which were based on imagery collected at only one time of year. Seasonal sampling will improve the reliability of the habitat maps and also give a better understanding of how the Ningaloo system operates.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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