Australian Marine Parks

Keesing, J.K. (Ed.) 2019. Benthic habitats and biodiversity of Dampier and Montebello Marine Parks. Report to the Director of National Parks. CSIRO, Australia.


Keesing 2019 cover

Montebello and Dampier Marine Parks

Montebello and Dampier Marine Parks, located in Commonwealth waters off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia, were established in 2012 and form part of the North-west Marine Parks Network. There is limited information on the habitat types and biodiversity within these parks, consequently, a priority is to increase understanding of bathymetry, habitat and biodiversity, to inform monitoring programs and evaluate management effectiveness.

Project objectives

The objective of this project was to provide the Director of National Parks with baseline information on benthic habitats and biodiversity in parts of the Montebello and Dampier Marine Parks. This information was collected by the CSIRO during a survey of the area in October-November 2017 on the RV Investigator.

Habitat information was collected by mapping depths, sub‐bottom profiling to determine seabed structure, multibeam acoustic swathing (bathymetry and backscatter [seabed hardness/softness]) and by interpreting imagery of the seabed.

Water column information was collected by conductivity/temperature/depth (CTD) profiling to measure chlorophyll a, salinity, temperature dissolved oxygen and photosynthetically available radiation (PAR). Water sampling was undertaken to measure nutrients.

The biodiversity assessment focused on key sessile, benthic habitat forming filter feeder (sponges, soft corals) and mobile invertebrate species (molluscs, crustaceans, echinoderms) as well as demersal fishes. Both demersal fish trawl and epibenthic sleds were used to sample biodiversity.

Montebello Marine Park

  • Habitats – predominantly fine sand or a mix of fine and coarse sand and occasionally rubbly bottom. Topography was predominantly flat bottom with occasional bioturbated areas. The exception to this was three sites in the far western section which had large sections of ridges or large sand ripples.
  • Fish – diversity was high with 118 species recorded in 2017. Twenty‐three (23) species (7%) recorded from the 2017 survey had not previously been recorded from the Montebello MP. Total fish diversity (based on ALA records) is approximately 360.
  • Corals – there were 32 species of soft coral, covering 11 families and 21 genera, recorded from the eight sites.
  • Sponges – There were 110 species of sponge sampled from the Dampier Marine Park.

Dampier Marine Park

  • Habitats – the Multiple Use Zone (MUZ) had predominantly flat or finely rippled, fine sandy substrate, with much of it overlying hard substrate as evidenced by the presence of large numbers of filter feeders. The HPZ was predominantly soft sediment habitat including some sand dunes.
  • Fish – diversity was high with 106 species recorded. Twelve species (11%) recorded from the 2017 survey had not previously been recorded from the Dampier MP bringing the total known fish species from the Dampier MP to 224 based on Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) records.
  • Corals – there were 46 species of soft coral, covering 12 families and 26 genera, including the species Nephthyigorgia kükenthali (Nidaliidae) which was previously thought to be very rare. Other rare species recorded were Studeriotes crassa and Plumarella penna. The latter is a delicate, featherlike, soft coral that has rarely been recorded from shallow waters (< 60 m). There have been no previous reports of soft corals from the Dampier Marine Park.
  • Sponges – There were 76 species of sponge collected from the Montebello MP in 2017, 51 of these occurring at the shallowest station and the other seven stations only having between one and 15 sponge species.