Australia is unique in being bounded by warm-water poleward-flowing boundary currents off both east (the East Australian Current, EAC) and west (Leeuwin Current) coasts. Although this results in generally low plankton and fisheries productivity, diversity is high and has affinities with the diverse tropical taxa of the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. AusCPR is currently observing the plankton along several routes using Continuous Plankton Recorders.
The East Australian Current route extends from Brisbane (Queensland, latitude 27oS) to Adelaide (South Australia, latitude 34oS) down the east coast of Australia and follows the southward-flowing warm-water East Australia Current. This region is forecast to warm more than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere this century.
The TAS route extends down the east coast of Tasmania, which is also subjected to the influence of the EAC. There is already some evidence of warm-water species moving southward.
The Southern Tasman route extends from Burnie, Tasmania (around latitude 40.4oS) to Nelson, New Zealand (latitude 40.7oS). This is an important area for fisheries and our survey links in with an existing mesopelagic acoustic survey.
The Southern Ocean routes below Australia are conducted by the SCAR SO-CPR Survey through the AAD and NIPR Japan, with support of the AusCPR. These routes extends from just south of Australia to the sea-ice edge or the Antarctic continent. Together with the EAC route, the Southern Ocean sampling allows a almost continuous transect running between the warm tropical waters of QLD and the cold polar waters of the Antarctic.
The new Western Australian route is likely to run between latitude 12.3oS to latitude 21.8oS down the Leeuwin Current . The north-west region has potential for strong development of industries such as gas and mining. We will be working in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).
The Great Barrier Reef route will extend from approximately latitude 14.3oS to latitude 23.4oS. The Great Barrier Reef is an area likely to be strongly affected by warming and ocean acidification. We will be working in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).
Additional funding secured in the 2009 Federal Budget will allow the survey to extend out to mid-2013. This will allow for significant enhancements that will provide better coverage and monitoring of Australian plankton communities, as well as contributing to increasing our understanding of regional seas.