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EARTH SCIENCE | BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION | PLANTS | MACROALGAE (SEAWEEDS)

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  • In coastal ecosystems, seaweeds provide habitat and a food source for a variety of species including herbivores of commercial importance. In these systems seaweeds are the ultimate source of energy with any changes in the seaweeds invariably affecting species of higher trophic levels. Seaweeds are rich sources of nutritionally important compounds such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and are particularly rich in long-chain (≥ C20) PUFA (LC-PUFA). In southern Australia, the ‘Great Southern Reef’ has one of the most diverse assemblages of seaweeds in the world, which support highly productive fisheries and have been recognised as a promising resource of omega-3 LC-PUFA. Despite this, there is little information on the biochemical composition of most species and how it varies between sites and seasons. To address this knowledge gap, we undertook a survey to assess seasonal variability in the biochemical composition (fatty acids and nitrogen content) of abundant understory seaweeds across three sites in eastern Tasmania. The availability of nutritional compounds differed between sites and was primarily driven by differences in the biomass and the biochemical composition of the nutritious red seaweeds at each site. This variability may explain regional differences in the productivity of commercial fisheries. At the species level, seasonal changes in fatty acid composition were highly variable between species and sites, indicating that multiple environmental drivers influence fatty acid composition of seaweeds in this system. This finding suggests that commercial harvest of seaweeds from eastern Tasmania will need to consider species and site-specific variability in fatty acid composition.

  • This record described kelp growth and ecophysiological data relevant to the thermal tolerance of specific warm-tolerant and 'normal' family-lines of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) from Tasmania, Australia. For habitat restoration to be effective, the cause of habitat decline must be understood and overcome. But this is problematic when climate change is driving habitat loss, since it cannot be reversed or ameliorated prior to restoration. A previous NESP project, led by this team, identified warmwater-tolerant strains of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) from remnant patches in eastern Tasmania, where the species has experienced severe declines over the past half-century due to climate change and ocean-warming. While these strains have high potential to assist with ‘future-proofing’ of kelp forest restoration activities, it is still unclear what the physiological mechanisms are that provide their improved thermal tolerance. Here we cultivated the warm-tolerant giant kelp strains, along with giant kelp strains of normal tolerance, at both cool (16 °C) and warm temperatures (20 °C). We then harvested the juvenile kelp, and examined a suite of physiological traits that may be responsible for their differences in thermal tolerance, including nutrient usage (carbon and nitrogen content), cellular membrane processes (fatty acid contents), and photosynthesis (PAM fluorometry and photosynthetic pigments). The cultivation trials again illustrated the improved ability of the warm-tolerant strains to develop at stressful warm temperatures relative to normal giant kelp. For the first time, we also demonstrate that their improved thermal performance may extend to the development and fertilisation of the earlier kelp ‘gametophyte’ life-stage. Despite the clear differences in growth between the two test groups, the physiological assessments illustrated a complex pattern of responses, some of which are contrary to expected based on prior knowledge of thermal performance in kelps. Nonetheless, our results indicate that the warm-tolerant strains of giant kelp have a greater capacity to alter the composition of their fatty acids and may be more efficient users of nitrogen (a key nutrient for growth and development). This new information will help inform ongoing kelp breeding and selection programs for future-proofing kelp restoration in Australia and globally. This improved understanding of the physiology of kelp thermal tolerance might also help with identifying individuals and populations of Macrocystis, and other kelps, that may be resilient to (or especially threatened by) ocean warming and climate change.

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    Annotations of Centrostephanus rogersii sea urchin barrens derived from towed video at selected key abalone blocks along the east coast of Tasmania. The purpose of the study was to examine the patch dynamics of urchin barrens and to provide validation for the identification of urchin barrens from multibeam surveys.

  • Most research investigating how ocean warming and acidification will impact marine species has focused on visually dominant species, such as kelps and corals, while ignoring visually cryptic species such as crustose coralline algae (CCA). CCA are important keystone species that provide settlement cues for invertebrate larvae and can be highly sensitive to global ocean change. However, few studies have assessed how CCA respond to low emission scenarios or conditions. In a laboratory experiment, we examined the responses of temperate CCA assemblages to combined warming and acidification projected under low, medium, and high emissions. Net calcification and net photosynthesis significantly declined in all emissions scenarios, while significant reductions in relative growth rates and increases in percentage bleaching were observed in the highest emission scenario. The negative responses of CCA to both low and medium emissions suggest that they may be adversely impacted by combined warming and acidification by 2030 if current emissions are sustained. This will have far reaching consequences for commercially important invertebrates that rely on them to induce settlement of larvae. These findings highlight the need to take rapid action to preserve these critical keystone species and the valuable services they provide.

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    An aerial survey was conducted for giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) on the east coast of Tasmania from Eddystone Point to Southeast Cape. This survey represents part of a series of similar surveys, with historic aerial surveys having been conducted in 1986 and 1999. The survey was conducted via light aircraft. Areas of visable Macrocystis pyrifera beds were marked on topographical land tenure maps using landmarks as references, and complimentary photo footage was collected.

  • The Marine Futures Project was designed to benchmark the current status of key Western Australian marine ecosystems, based on an improved understanding of the relationship between marine habitats, biodiversity and our use of these values. Approximately 1,500 km2 of seafloor were mapped using hydroacoustics (Reson 8101 Multibeam), and expected benthic habitats "ground-truthed" using towed video transects and baited remote underwater video systems. Both sources of information were then combined in a spatial predictive modelling framework to produce fine-scale habitat maps showing the extent of substrate types, biotic formations, etc. Surveys took place across 9 study areas, including Rottnest Island, a popular family holiday destination just 20 km off the Perth coast. One of the main drawcards of the island is the diverse marine life inhabiting the surounding waters, which Western Australian locals and tourists can experience by snorkelling, diving, boating and fishing. The marine environment around Rottnest includes seagrass meadows, kelp-covered reef tops, coral patches, and sponge gardens in deeper water. As a result of the warm, southward flowing Leeuwin Current, the island represents the southern limit of the distributions of many tropical corals and fish. The marine life around Rottnest therefore represents a unique mix of tropical and temperate species and habitats.

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    The Marine Futures Project was designed to benchmark the current status of key Western Australian marine ecosystems, based on an improved understanding of the relationship between marine habitats, biodiversity and our use of these values. Approximately 1,500 km2 of seafloor were mapped using hydroacoustics (Reson 8101 Multibeam), and expected benthic habitats "ground-truthed" using towed video transects and baited remote underwater video systems. Both sources of information were then combined in a spatial predictive modelling framework to produce fine-scale habitat maps showing the extent of substrate types, biotic formations, etc. This project record provides linkage to each of metadata records describing data collected from the 9 study areas: Jurien Bay, Rottnest, Abrolhos Islands, Point Ann, Middle Island, Mount Gardner, Broke Inlet, and Geographe Bay​. To access the source datasets from each study site in their original (unaggregated) form, see child records linked to this parent record.

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    This record describes an aggregated data product compiled from a number of different surveys of Macrocystis surface cover in Tasmanian waters, spanning 1950 to 2019. Some surveys represent a statewide census of Macrocystis cover, while others are targeted surveys of smaller regions. Methodology and data quality lso varies between surveys. Please see linked metadata records for specific methodologies and quality statements applying to individual surveys.

  • The Marine Futures Project was designed to benchmark the current status of key Western Australian marine ecosystems, based on an improved understanding of the relationship between marine habitats, biodiversity and our use of these values. Approximately 1,500 km2 of seafloor were mapped using hydroacoustics (Reson 8101 Multibeam), and expected benthic habitats "ground-truthed" using towed video transects and baited remote underwater video systems. Both sources of information were then combined in a spatial predictive modelling framework to produce fine-scale habitat maps showing the extent of substrate types, biotic formations, etc. Surveys took place across 9 study areas, including the Capes region of southwest Western Australia. The area is one of the most diverse temperate marine environments in Australia. Warm, tropical waters of the Leeuwin Current mingle with the cool waters of the Capes Current, resulting in high finfish diversity, including tropical and temperate species, as well as internationally significant seagrass diversity with meadows occurring at depths greater than 40 metres. The region's geomorphology is complex with an array of intertidal and subtidal reef environments. Many marine plants and animals are endemic to the southern coast of Australia due to its long geographical isolation, with seagrass, algae and estuarine habitats functioning as spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for a wide range of invertebrates and fish. Significant numbers of marine mammals also frequent the area, including the blue whale, the largest of all marine creatures.

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    Annotations of canopy forming seaweed derived from towed video at selected key abalone blocks along the east coast of Tasmania. The purpose of the study was to examine the patch dynamics of seaweeds and urchin barrens and to provide validation for the identification of urchin barrens from multibeam surveys.