Marine biodiversity and ecosystems
Cowfish Flinders Pier.
Fin, Museum Victoria
a unique marine environment with the rest of southern Australia.
Mosaics of different habitats in intertidal areas and under the
sea - including rocky reefs, sand and mud, seagrass and algal beds
- support many different types of marine plants and animals. These
habitats are connected by flowing seawater that carries a range
of marine plants and animals at various life-history stages. The
diversity of marine life such as seaweeds, sea mosses, worms, crabs
and shrimps in southern Australia is as great as that of any comparable
part of the world.
parks and marine sanctuaries safeguard important marine habitats
and species, significant natural features, cultural heritage and
aesthetic values. Continued management of these areas is important.
However we must also improve our focus on managing the rest of Victoria's
marine environment. These waters have significant intrinsic biodiversity
values, and also interact with the marine protected areas physically
and ecologically. They support a variety of uses, including fishing,
aquaculture, recreation, tourism and shipping, and deliver a range
of ecosystem services which depend in many ways on their biodiversity.
from unsustainable use
uses of the marine environment also threaten biodiversity, often
through their effects on water quality. The threats vary along Victoria's
coast, and can include input of nutrients, toxins, sediment, exotic
species, physical changes to habitats and over use. Some threats
stem from catchments or activities in local marine and estuarine
areas, while others - such as marine pests - may be introduced by
shipping and boating movements. While the importance of catchment-based
threats to the bays is well-established, better understanding of
their relative importance along Victoria's open coast would provide
a clearer basis for refining catchment management priorities.
threats is complex but crucial to protecting biodiversity and at
the same time supporting sustainable use of resources. Multiple
uses can result in a range of threats occurring in an area, which
can have inter-related effects.
are likely to include a range of climate change implications in
the future. Effects of inundation and storm surges are likely to
focus in nearshore, particularly intertidal areas. Increases to
seawater acidity may not allow some marine animals to produce shells
and skeletons, and may affect biodiversity and fisheries. Changes
to rainfall patterns may affect how catchment-derived nutrients,
sediments and toxins are delivered to marine environments. Changes
in seawater temperature may alter ocean currents, and could affect
distributions of marine animals and plants. These are significant
challenges, especially for the fisheries industry. More specific
predictions about the vulnerability of Victoria's marine environment
to climate change threats, advised by better scientific understanding,
will be critical for preparing for and adapting to inevitable risks
and impacts. We will need a coordinated approach to consider impacts
of large-scale issues, such as changes to ocean currents..
We must continue
to manage known threats to marine biodiversity, and the emerging
threats associated with climate change, informed by the best available
science. We need to build our understanding of how ecologically
important marine communities vary naturally over time - and which
ecological processes are responsible - so we can better predict
their response to pressures arising from climate change, catchment
activities and new developments.
can use the best international science to inform Victorian management,
but often we must develop additional understanding of how global
knowledge must be modified for the Australian context, or even down
to the scale of local sections of Victoria's coast.
We also need
to explore opportunities to strengthen coordination and information
sharing. The Victorian Coastal Council's expert science panel is
an important mechanism for providing independent advice about emerging
scientific issues and information gaps relating to the coast.
for, and contribution to, reducing threats to marine biodiversity
is vital. The value of marine biodiversity is not necessarily well-appreciated
by the wider community as it is generally out of sight under the
sea surface. Engaging and enabling the community to work with government
policy makers and marine scientists through education and good communication
marine management, planning and implementation is a priority to
reduce conflicts in values, uses and approaches across government,
industry sectors and community. Effective linkages between management
frameworks for catchments, waterways, coastal and marine systems
are crucial to effectively tackle cross-environment threats. As
such, it is important to consider mechanisms to improve:
in marine management, planning and implementation
between agencies and industry sectors
these issues will require adequate ongoing resources as well as
effective, informed prioritisation of approaches and tools.
and tools we use need to reflect linkages between catchments and
marine environments, but also capture the characteristics and complexities
that are unique to marine ecosystems and their management.
maintain and where appropriate improve marine ecological integrity
the impact of sea-based activities on marine ecological
integrity, focussing where possible on preventing damage
rather than attempting rehabilitation
the introduction of high risk marine pests and providing
emergency response to eradicate new infestations as required
the need for dredging and ensuring that necessary dredging
meets best practice
potential impacts on water quality and biodiversity from
industrial and extractive uses
responding to marine pollution incidents including oil spills
threats to marine protected areas by addressing outcomes
of ongoing monitoring and risk assessments
and managing use and development within coastal catchments
which threaten the integrity of marine ecosystems
and where feasible prepare adaptation responses for marine environments
for the key risks and impacts of climate change.
current and best available emerging marine science, and build
scientific understanding through effective, targeted research
and monitoring programs.
improve marine planning and management frameworks and tools.
Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary
of Beware Reef
Build the scientific understanding required to accurately predict
the vulnerability of Victoria's marine ecosystems to climate change
and identify options for marine ecosystems to prepare and adapt
to climate change through national and Victorian approaches (DSE,
DPI, EPA, VCC).
Develop a marine biodiversity science and research strategy which
informs Victoria's marine management. The strategy should consider
funding options and opportunities and identify strategies to strengthen
coordination with other relevant states. Improving strategic understanding
of Western Port's ecological systems and threats should be a particular
focus of this action (DSE, CCB,
EPA, MW, PPWPCMA).
Develop and implement a marine condition assessment framework and
reporting approach that will inform monitoring approaches, supported
by a scientific assessment of existing programs and future needs
DPI, PV, CMA).
Improve Victoria's marine management, planning and institutional
framework to address current and emerging challenges - such as climate
change, marine parks and sanctuaries (comprehensiveness, adequacy
and representation), and catchment-coast-sea integration - with
the possible outcome of a marine strategy (DSE,
DPI, EPA, PV).
Develop a strategic framework to improve the prioritisation of management
actions for marine assets such as biodiversity, fish habitats and
key processes (DSE, DPI,
Update and improve Victoria's protocols for marine pest incursions,
including a rapid response to new incursions, meeting obligations
under a national system to prevent and manage marine pests), and
supporting national best practice guidelines for managing biofouling
across stakeholder groups (DSE, EPA,