Explorers find new species in Bremer Canyon expedition
New species of marine life have been uncovered and first-of-its-kind mapping of the Bremer Canyon conducted as part of a groundbreaking “voyage of discovery”.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor left Albany in late January, carrying with it a 13-strong international research team destined for the Bremer Marine Park.
Headed by the University of WA’s Julie Trotter, the team’s two-week scientific expedition focused on finding samples of deep-sea corals, both fossilised and living.
The team also strategically collected associated fauna with deep-sea corals, seawater, and geological samples from depths between 200m and 4km.
The samples will help the team develop an understanding of how condition changes such as climate change affect marine ecosystems over time. The team explored the Bremer Canyon at depths previously unseen by scientists.
Dr Trotter said new species of marine fauna were discovered during the expedition, but they would not be classified until specialists examined their material.
“It was amazing. It’s always a privilege to see things that nobody else has seen before and to have the opportunity to do this kind of work,” Dr Trotter said.
“It’s rare to do this type of research in Australian waters because we don’t have the remote operate vehicle capability which we needed to survey.
“We saw a lot of diversity and abundance ... we didn’t know what to expect because nobody had explored it before.
“We have already made a number of remarkable discoveries.”
UWA Professor Malcolm McCulloch said the Falkor’s findings would be given to Australian marine authorities.
“By chance, there was a call for a general proposal from the Australian marine parks to work on some of their parks,” he said.
“The idea was since the Bremer Canyon includes some of the deepest waters of any marine park ... to find out its current state, where the coral distributions are — essentially a modern-day habitat map, which could be used as a baseline.” He said the “big picture” of the research was gaining a better understanding of the regulation of the world’s climate system.
Facing the Southern Ocean, the Bremer Canyon provides important information on the recent and past histories of climate change.
“This has global implications given these waters originate from around Antarctica which feed all of the major oceans and regulate our climate system,” he said.
“The Southern Ocean is the main source of nutrients for the upper part of the world’s oceans.”
Prof. McCulloch said the research found the deep-sea corals in the Bremer Canyon were “particularly vulnerable” to condition changes.
Final analysis could take months to complete or even years for some samples.
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