Marine Mapping – Bioregions

Habitat zoning and mapping is even more important if you want to set up marine parks, or make any sort of marine resources management plan. Everyone knows that NSW has different marine animals from Adelaide, but where do the major changes occur? One way of looking at it is to look at the presence of certain species of algae. Miraculously, the seaweed bull kelp (Durvillea potatorum) stops at the Victorian border, heaps south of Green Cape and virtually none further north. Happily, strap weed Ecklonia radiata then cuts out at the NSW/Qld border. Were our colonial-era administrators actually closet phycologists? More likely their survey ships struggled against the same winds and weather that held back the marine life. Algae was really convenient, and it led to the first attempts at bioregionalisation, starting in 1985. This consisted of a handful of marine provinces, some taking in half of temperate Australia. But what about the fish? Did key species also stop at Green Cape, no way. The nuances of geography and other deep water and bottom-dwelling species needed to be accounted for and this created finer scales of assessment (mesoscale bioregions).What about offshore territories? Add in a few more bioregions. Fold back the curtains…IMCRA v4.0! Now it looks like the quilt grandma made in WWII when they were short on fabric, lots of little sections all joined together. There are 41 provincial bioregions comprising 24 provinces and 17 areas called transitions, where fish and marine animals from surrounding areas are mixed. What now? I’d suggest that if you are in to snorkelling, diving, beachcombing or any other water activity you need to participate in a new sport called “mesoprovince bagging”. Make a list and tick off each one you visit. Reward yourself with something like a chocolate éclair or Irish coffee for every one you visit. Extra points and an affogato with extra ice cream if you can find a ‘no take’ marine protected area in there sheltering all the unique systems represented by these bioregions, chances are you often won’t