A key research focus for the NSW-IMOS Node is to integrate ecosystem responses with oceanographic processes. The East Australia Current (EAC) is the key oceanographic feature off Australia’s east coast and is likely to be a major factor influencing the distributions of benthic organisms. This warm water current is known to vary substantially among years in its strength and southward extension and is forecast to change further given climate change. The coast of southeastern Australia comprises species-rich and diverse habitats across eastern Australia’s tropical-subtropical and temperate transitions. This, together with the pervasive influence of the EAC on marine connectivity is a challenge for managers as they strive to understand the mechanisms underlying resident biodiversity. The net effect of physical oceanographic changes on the biological connectivity of coastal populations is a critical concern for coastal management.
Key Scientific Questions
- Quantify the daily to decadal variation of planktonic communities in relation to oceanographic and climate-driven changes in physical and chemical ocean properties.
- Quantify rocky reef biota variables (kelp distribution and abundance) associated with climate variability, at deep reefs along the NSW to Tasmanian coast.
- Relationship of the EAC, its eddies and oceanographic conditions on fisheries, and movements by fish and sharks.
- Quantify the seasonal and yearly variation of upper-predator (fish and marine mammal) communities.