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Ecology of iconic species and apex predators


Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) adult female with five month old pup in the Nuyts Archipelago region of the GAB. Australian sea lions are an iconic threatened species, with over 80% of the species found in the in the Great Australian Bight region.

The unique marine ecosystem of the Great Australian Bight supports the greatest known density of marine predators in coastal Australia. The region is of national and global conservation significance. Species includes apex predators and iconic species such as whales and dolphins, seals, seabirds and large sharks and fish. Some species are resident occurring in the region year round and others are migratory and come into the region at specific times of the year to feed and/or breed.

There is limited information on the distribution and relative abundance of apex predators and iconic species within the Great Australian Bight region. There is also a limited understanding of what key habitat features attract marine predator species to the Great Australian Bight, how variation in these features affect the use of different areas at different times throughout the year, and whether there are key regions utilised by many species that constitute Areas of Ecological Significance (AES).

Iconic species and apex predator projects

Status, distribution and abundance of iconic species in the Great Australian Bight. Project Leader: Professor Simon Goldsworthy (SARDI).

This project will undertake the largest coordinated survey of marine megafauna in the Great Australian Bight region and provide the most detailed assessment of the status, distribution and abundances of key iconic and apex predator species to date.

High densities and biodiversity of marine predators in the Great Australian Bight region are thought to be underpinned by the region's unique proximity to seasonal coastal upwelling and productive frontal zones that boost pelagic production.

Knowledge gathered by this project will aid State and Commonwealth environmental agencies in the conservation and management of these species and assist in the management of impacts from human activities in the Great Australian Bight. It will also enhance the scientific basis for the development of management strategies and monitoring programs.

Fact sheet: Tracking the Bight's apex predators (PDF 300KB)

Areas of ecological significance for iconic species and apex predators. Project Leader: Professor Simon Goldsworthy, SARDI.

This project will integrated and analyse one the largest animal tracking datasets in the world to provide insights into why the Great Australian Bight region is so significant to apex predators and iconic species. A diverse range of existing and newly collected data on these species will be analysed using novel spatial modelling methods to better understand individual species distributions, habitats, and regions utilised by multiple species. Such information will be critical to manage key habitats and potential impacts to apex predators and iconic species in the region.

Fact sheet: Key habitats of Great Australian Bight marine predator species (PDF 321KB) 

Southern bluefin tuna: spatial dynamics and potential impacts of noise associated with oil and gas exploration. Principal Investigator: Dr Campbell Davies, CSIRO.

This project will contribute to a broader knowledge of the ecological role of juvenile southern bluefin tuna in the Great Australian Bight.

It will investigate and model a 30-year period of historical and contemporary southern bluefin tuna feeding, diving and migratory behaviour and habitats, and associated environmental factors.

The information will provide a basis for establishing the spatial dynamics and ecological role of juvenile southern bluefin tuna as an apex predator in the Bight.

Fact sheet: Use of the Bight by southern bluefin tuna and potential impacts of noise associated with oil and gas exploration (PDF 295KB)

Iconic species and apex predators team

Final reports

Evans K, Rogers P and Goldsworthy S (2017). Theme 4: Ecology of iconic species and apex predators. Theme Report. Great Australian Bight Research Program, GABRP Research Report Series Number 37, 19pp.

Goldsworthy S.D., Mackay A.I., Bilgmann, L.M., Moller L.M., Parra G.J., Gill P, Bailleul F, Shaughnessy P, Reinhold S-L and Rogers P.J (2017). Status, distribution and abundance of iconic species and apex predators in the Great Australian Bight. Final Report GABRP Project 4.1. Great Australian Bight Research Program, GABRP Research Report Series Number 15, 227pp.

Links

Blue Whale Study (external website)
Blue Whale Study (BWS) undertakes blue whale research, investigating the ecology of blue whales in the biologically rich upwelling waters off south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia. Their primary research focus has been aerial surveys which show the distribution of blue whales across a wide area over multiple seasons. As part of the Great Australian Bight Research Program three aerial surveys will be undertaken in the Great Australian Bight region during 2015/16 season to better understand movement and utilisation of this region by cetaceans.

 


 

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.