275 species discovered in Bight research program

The Great Australian Bight Research Program is nearing completion following a comprehensive four-year study of the Bight.

The $20 million first whole-of-system study of the area will help to inform the sustainable management of a region rich with unique and diverse ecosystems.

Key program finding include the discovery of 275 species new to science found on the deep sea floor of the Bight; new whole-of-system models that bring together existing knowledge and new ecological, economic and social data to improve our understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Bight’s ecosystem; that the central Bight contributes more to overall ecosystem productivity than previously thought; the creation of one of the world’s largest tracking databases of apex predators, which was used to identify specific areas of the Bight that are highly used by many species; and further evidence of active petroleum systems in the Bight.

In addition to the newly discovered species, 887 species were found in the Bight for the first time.

Research director of the Great Australian Bight Research Program Dr Ben Baghurst was thrilled with the results.

“The legacy of this program is that we now have an extensive range of research results that will support the sustainable management of the Great Australian Bight,” he said.

“Before this program, very little was understood about the deep-waters of the Bight and a whole-of-system study had never been undertaken.

“Now, thanks to research from more than 100 of Australia’s leading scientists and technical staff over the last four years, we have models, tools and data that will be freely available to help inform future management of the Bight.”

The program has been a collaboration between BP, CSIRO, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University, with an outline to seek to provide an understanding of the environmental, economic and social values of the region.

The aim of the program has been to help balance human activity and sustainability and to ensure future developments co-exist with the area's environment, industries and the community.

The research program brought together multi-disciplinary research teams organised around a number of major research themes.

The oceanography, ecology, biodiversity, petroleum geochemistry of the Bight has been studied, together with socio-economic research on communities and businesses dependent on the region.