The Marine chapter of the 2016 State of the Environment (SoE) report incorporates multiple expert templates developed from
streams of marine data. This metadata record describes the Expert Assessment "The state and trends of quality of habitats
and communities – Deepwater corals and sponges (30 m – 250 m)". The full Expert Assessment, including figures and tables
(where provided), is attached to this record. Where available, the Data Stream(s) used to generate this Expert Assessment
are accessible through the "On-line Resources" section of this record.
DESCRIPTION OF ECOLOGICAL HABITAT/COMMUNITY FOR EXPERT ASSESSMENT
Corals and sponges are habitat-forming biota that often enhance benthic biodiversity in deep shelf waters by providing complex
structural living spaces for a large number of other species from a variety of taxa (Pitcher et al. 2007a, Buhl-Mortensen
et al. 2010, Fromont et al. 2012). Most species of corals and sponges need stable substrata for larva to settle and attachment
of adult colonies, thus they are usually not associated with mobile or soft-sediment habitats. While corals are often thought
of as being associated with tropical waters, coral species are found throughout Australia’s shelf waters and can make up
a significant component of the cold-water assemblage. Coldwater corals include stony corals (Scleractinia), black corals
(Antipatharia), and octocorals (Alcyonacea)
Our knowledge of these taxa in Australian waters below typical diving depths stems mainly from a few broad-scale biodiversity
surveys covering the Gulf of Carpentaria (Long et al. 1995; Harris et al. 2007; Bustamante et al. 2011), Great Barrier Reef
shelf (Pitcher et al. 2007a), Torres Strait (Pitcher et al. 2007b), Pilbara (Pitcher et al. 2016b), southern south-east,
north-west, and western south –west regions, and the Lord Howe/ Norfolk ridge area (McEnnulty et al. 2011, Williams et al.
2011, Dunstan et al. 2012). Both corals and sponges were found to be highly diverse with many undescribed species, as well
as many ‘unknown’ (sensuHooper et al. 2013) species (McEnnulty et al. 2011, Fromont et al. 2012, Alderslade et al. 2014).
For example, sponges in the GBR were the most diverse group with the highest levels of rarity (Pitcher et al. 2007a) and
some of the most abundant sponges discovered were new species (Sutcliffe et al. 2010). In addition, species turn-over
between samples was extremely high for both taxa (Schlacher et al. 2007, Fromont et al. 2012, Alderslade et al. 2014). The
sponge fauna of NSW shelf waters was reviewed in order to improve our understanding in east coast subtropical and temperate
waters (Davis et al. 2010).
Recently (2008 onwards), IMOS has funded an AUV program that allows repeat photographic surveys to document the cross-shelf
distribution of reef associated benthic invertebrate assemblages at a broad set of latitudinally spaced nodes along Australia’s
eastern and western coastlines. This program, if continued, will allow long-term monitoring of the state and trend of deep
shelf reef sponges and corals at a fixed set of sites and feed into future SoE assessments. While species identifications
are not always possible from such imagery, a national identification framework has been established for consistently annotating
this imagery to the finest scale possible (CATAMI refs), and initial analysis (e.g. Perkins et al. 2015) demonstrates patterns
similar to the biodiversity surveys above, with high diversity and high species turnover between locations samples (e.g.
Monk et al., in press).
Both sponges and corals are frequently used as indicators of benthic ‘vulnerable marine ecosystems’ (VME) in conservation
planning (FAO 2008, Tracey et al. 2008, Williams et al. 2015).
The ability of sponges to filter large volumes of water makes them a critical link between the benthos and the overlaying
water column (WAMSI 2016), and recent studies of productivity on shallow coral reefs suggest that filter feeding by sponges
may account for up to 90% of the trophic coupling between pelagic and benthic ecosystems (ref). Such coupling is equally
likely on deeper reefs and temperate latitudes as well. The species-level identification of deepwater sponges has not been
standardised across Australian collections at this stage; however, this may be possible in the future through SpongeMaps,
an online collaboration tool for sponge taxonomists (Hooper et al. 2013; Hall & Hooper 2014).
DATA STREAM(S) USED IN EXPERT ASSESSMENT
This assessment is based on data from several Marine National Facility Surveys (available via CSIRO Data Trawler http://www.cmar.csiro.au/data/trawler/). Links to specific data sets are provided in the "On-line resources" section of this record.
• Voyage of Discovery north-west (SS05/2007)
• Voyage of Discovery south-west (SS07/2005 & SS10/2005)
• Tasmanian seamounts surveys (SS01/1999, SS02/2006 & SS02/2007, SS01/2008 & TT01/2008)
• Habitat and population assessment of giant crabs (2003 - 2005)
• Gulf of Carpentaria survey : beam trawl megabenthos (SS03/1990)
• Mapping & Characterisation of Biotic & Physical Attributes of the Torres Strait (Epibenthic Sled)
• Great Barrier Reef Seabed Biodiversity Project (Epibenthic Sled)
2016 SOE ASSESSMENT SUMMARY [see attached Expert Assessment for full details]
• 2016 •
Assessment grade: Good
Assessment trend: Improving
Confidence grade: Limited evidence or limited consensus
Confidence trend: Limited evidence or limited consensus
Comparability: Grade and trend are somewhat comparable to the 2011 assessment
• 2011 •
Assessment trend: Stable
CHANGES SINCE 2011 SOE ASSESSMENT
Evidence for the good 2011 grade for the Temperate East Region is unclear and it is suggested that this previous grade
for the East Region was incorrect based on new information on trawl footprints in the 5 marine regions.
Alderslade, P., F. Althaus, F. McEnnulty, K. Gowlett-Holmes, and A. Williams. 2014. Australia’s deep-water octocoral fauna:
historical account and checklist, distributions and regional affinities of recent collections. Zootaxa 3796:435-452.
Althaus, F., A. Williams, P. Alderslade, and T. A. Schlacher. submitted. Conservation of marine biodiversity on a very large
deep continental margin: how representative is a very large offshore reserve network for deep-water octocorals? Diversity
Buhl-Mortensen, L., A. Vanreusel, A. Gooday, J., L. Levin, A. , I. Priede, G., P. Buhl-Mortensen, H. Gheerardyn, N. King,
J., and M. Raes. 2010. Biological structures as a source of habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity on the deep ocean margins.
Marine Ecology 31:21-50.
Bustamante, R.H., C.M. Dichmont, N. Ellis, S. Griffiths, W.A. Rochester, M.A. Burford, P.C. Rothlisberg, Q. Dell, M. Tonks.,
H. Lozano-Montes, R. Deng, T. Wassenberg, T.A. Okey, A. Revill, T. van der Velde, C. Moeseneder, S. Cheers, A. Donovan, T.
Taranto, G. Salini, G. Fry, S. Tickell, R. Pascual, F. Smith, and E. Morello (2011). Effects of trawling on the benthos and
biodiversity: Development and delivery of a Spatially-explicit Management Framework for the Northern Prawn Fishery. Final
report to the project FRDC 2005/050. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Cleveland, P382. http://frdc.com.au/research/final-reports/Pages/2005-050-DLD.aspx
Davis, A., Broad, A., Roberts, D. and Jordan, A. (2010). Review of sponges in NSW coastal waters: ecology, diversity and
distribution. NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water Occasional Paper Series, 66 p.
Davis, A., Gullett, W., Reveley, J., Broad, A. (2014) Anchors aweigh: Towards sustainable anchoring practices near Australian
Ports. Workshop summary, 30th May, 2014. Wollongong, New South Wales. https://globalchallenges.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@gc/documents/doc/uow175958.pdf
Dunstan, P., K. , F. Althaus, A. Williams, and N. J. Bax. 2012. Characterising and Predicting Benthic Biodiversity for Conservation
Planning in Deepwater Environments. PLoS ONE 7:e36558.
FAO. 2008. International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas: Annex F of the Report of
the Technical Consultation on International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas. FAO, Rome.
Fromont, J., F. Althaus, F. R. McEnnulty, A. Williams, M. Salotti, O. Gomez, and K. Gowlett-Holmes. 2012. Living on the
edge: the sponge fauna of Australia’s southwestern and northwestern deep continental margin. Hydrobiologia 687:127-142.
Fulton, E., Hatfield, B., Althaus, F., Sainsbury, K. (2006) Benthic habitat dynamics and models on Australia’s North West
Shelf. NWSJEMS Technical Report No. 11. 67p. ISBN 1 921061 65 0
Hall, K. A. and Hooper, J. N. A. 2014. SpongeMaps - an online community for sponge taxonomy. Available at: www.spongemaps.org
[last accessed Wed, 10 Feb 2016 04:44:02 GMT].
Harris, P.T., Heap, A.D., Marshall, J., Hemer, M., Daniell, J., Hancock, A., Buchanan, C., Sbaffi, L., Brewer, D. & Heales,
D., 2007. Submerged Coral Reefs and Benthic Habitats of the Southern Gulf of Carpentaria: Post-Survey Report - GA Survey
276, RV Southern Surveyor. Record 2007/002. Geoscience Australia, Canberra.
Hooper, J. N., K. A. Hall, M. Ekins, D. Erpenbeck, G. Worheide, and G. Jolley-Rogers. 2013. Managing and sharing the escalating
number of sponge "unknowns": the SpongeMaps project. Integr Comp Biol 53:473-481.
Long, B. G., Poiner, I. R., Wassenberg, T. J. (1995) Distribution, biomass and community structure of megabenthos of the Gulf
of Carpentaria, Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 129: 127-139.
McEnnulty, F. R., K. L. Gowlett-Holmes, A. Williams, F. Althaus, J. Fromont, G. C. B. Poore, T. D. O'Hara, L. Marsh, P.
Kott, S. Slack-Smith, P. Alderslade, and M. V. Kitahara. 2011. The deepwater megabenthic invertebrates on the western continental
margin of Australia (100–1500 m depths): composition, distribution and novelty. Records of the Western Australian Museum 80:1-191.
Pitcher, C.R. (2013) Environmental sustainability assessment update for habitats, assemblages and bycatch species in the
Torres Strait Prawn Fishery. Scientific Technical Report. CSIRO, Australia. 27 pp. http://pzja.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Pitcher-Torres-Strait-trawl-sustainability-assessment-update-Final.pdf
Pitcher C.R., Austin M., Burridge C.Y., Bustamante R.H., Cheers S.J., Ellis N., Jones P.N., Koutsoukos A.G., Moeseneder
C.H., Smith G.P., Venables W., Wassenberg T.J., (2008) Recovery of Seabed Habitat from the Impact of Prawn Trawling in the
Far Northern Section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. CSIRO Marine Research Final Report to GBRMPA, pp. 191
Pitcher, C. R., Williams, A., Ellis, N., Althaus, F., McLeod, I., Bustamante, R., Kenyon, R., Fuller, M. in review. Implications
of current spatial management measures for AFMA ERAs for habitats — FRDC Project No 2014/204. CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere,
Published Brisbane, November 2015, 50 pages
Pitcher, C.R., Ellis, N. (2011) Gap analysis. Pages 44–52 in Bax, N. ed. CERF Report on Transition and Extension Program.
Marine Biodiversity Hub, May 2011
Pitcher, C.R., Ellis, N., Althaus, F., Williams, A., McLeod, I. (2015) Predicting benthic impacts & recovery to support biodiversity
management in the South‐east Marine Region. Pages 24–25 in Bax, N.J. & Hedge, P. [Eds.]. 2015. Marine Biodiversity Hub, National
Environmental Research Program, Final report 2011–2015. Report to Department of the Environment. Canberra, Australia.
Pitcher, C.R., Doherty, P., Arnold, P., Hooper, J., Gribble, N., Bartlett, C., Browne, M., Campbell, N., Cannard, T., Cappo,
M., Carini, G., Chalmers, S., Cheers, S., Chetwynd, D., Colefax, A., Coles, R., Cook, S., Davie, P., De'ath, G., Devereux,
D., Done, B., Donovan, T., Ehrke, B., Ellis, N., Ericson, G., Fellegara, I., Forcey, K., Furey, M., Gledhill, D., Good,
N., Gordon, S., Haywood, M., Hendriks, P., Jacobsen, I., Johnson, J., Jones, M., Kinninmoth, S., Kistle, S., Last, P., Leite,
A., Marks, S., McLeod, I., Oczkowicz, S., Robinson, M., Rose, C., Seabright, D., Sheils, J., Sherlock, M., Skelton, P.,
Smith, D., Smith, G., Speare, P., Stowar, M., Strickland, C., Van der Geest, C., Venables, W., Walsh, C., Wassenberg, T.,
Welna, A., Yearsley, G. (2007a). Seabed Biodiversity on the Continental Shelf of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
AIMS/CSIRO/QM/QDPI Final Report to CRC Reef Research. 320 pp. ISBN 978-1-921232-87-9 http://fish.gov.au/reports/Documents/Pitcher_et_al_2007a_GBR_Seabed_Biodiversity_Final_Report.pdf
Pitcher, C.R., Haywood, M., Hooper, J., Coles, R., Bartlett, C., Browne, M., Cannard, T., Carini, G., Carter, A., Cheers,
S., Chetwynd, D., Colefax, A., Cook, S., Davie, P., Ellis, N., Fellegara, I., Forcey, K., Furey, M., Gledhill, D., Hendriks,
P., Jacobsen, I., Johnson, J., Jones, M., Last, P., Marks, S., McLeod, I., Sheils, J., Sheppard, J., Smith, G., Strickland,
C., Van der Geest, C., Venables, W., Wassenberg, T., Yearsley, G. (2007b). Mapping and Characterisation of Key Biotic & Physical
Attributes of the Torres Strait Ecosystem. CSIRO/QM/QDPI Task Final Report to CRC Torres Strait. 142pp. ISBN 978-1-921232-89-3
Pitcher, C.R., Ellis, N., Venables, W., Wassenberg, T.J., Burridge, C.Y., Smith, G.P., Browne, M., Pantus, F.J., Poiner
I.R., Doherty P.J., Hooper, J.N.A., Gribble N. (2016a). Effects of trawling on sessile megabenthos in the Great Barrier
Reef, and evaluation of the efficacy of management strategies. Proceedings: Effects of Fishing on Benthic Fauna and Habitats
ICES Journal of Marine Science. (Supplement) 73,i115-i126 1. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/73/suppl_1/i115
Pitcher, C.R., Miller, M., Morello, E., Fry, G., Strzelecki, J., McLeod, I., Slawinski, D., Ellis, N., Thomson, D., Bearham,
D., Keesing, J., Donovan, A., Babcock, R., Mortimer, N. (2016b) Environmental Pressures: Regional Biodiversity — Pilbara
Seabed Biodiversity Mapping & Characterisation. Final report, CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, 61 p.
Pitcher, C.R., Wassenberg, T.J., Cappo, M.C., Smith, G.P., Austin, M., Gordon, S.R., Bustamante, R.H., Moeseneder, C.H.,
Speare, P.J., Kennedy, J.A., Doherty, P.J., Hooper, J.N.A. (2004). Dynamics of large sessile seabed fauna, important for
structural fisheries habitat and biodiversity of marine ecosystems — and use of these habitats by key finfish species.
Final report to Fisheries Research & Development Corporation. CSIRO Marine Research. Pp. 304. ISBN 1876996773 http://frdc.com.au/research/Documents/Final_reports/1997-205-DLD.pdf
Rogers, P., T. Ward, P. van Ruth, A. Williams, B. Bruce, D. Currie, C. Davies, K. Evans, S. Goldsworthy, D. Griffin, N.
Hardman-Mountford, R. Kloser, J. Middleton, A. Richardson, A. Ross, and J. Young. 2013. Physical processes, biodiversity
and ecology of the Great Australian Bight region: a literature review. CSIRO, Hobart Tas.
Schlacher, T. A., M. A. Schlacher-Hoenliger, A. Williams, F. Althaus, J. N. A. Hooper, and R. Kloser. 2007. Richness and
distribution of sponge megabenthos in continental margin canyons off southeastern Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series
Sutcliffe, P.R., Hooper, J.N.A., Pitcher, C.R. (2010) The most common sponges on the Great Barrier Reef seabed, Australia,
include species new to science (Phylum Porifera). Zootaxa 2616: 1–30
Thresher, R. E., J. M. Guinotte, R. J. Matear, and A. J. Hobday. 2015. Options for managing impacts of climate change on
a deep-sea community. Nature Climate Change 5:635-639.
Tracey, D. M., S. J. Parker, E. Mackay, O. Anderson, and K. Ramm. 2008. Classification guide for potentially vulnerable
invertebrate taxa in the SPRFMO Area. south Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO).
WAMSI 2016. Sponges chose enigma over charisma. Available from: http://www.wamsi.org.au/news/sponges-choose-enigma-over-charisma [accessed on Feb 11, 2016]
Williams, A., F. Althaus, M. R. Clark, and K. Gowlett-Holmes. 2011. Composition and distribution of deep-sea benthic invertebrate
megafauna on the Lord Howe Rise and Norfolk Ridge, southwest Pacific Ocean. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies
in Oceanography 58:948-958.
Williams, A., F. Althaus, and T. A. Schlacher. 2015. Towed camera imagery and benthic sled catches provide different views
of seamount benthic diversity. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 13:62-73.
Williams, A., T. A. Schlacher, A. A. Rowden, F. Althaus, M. R. Clark, D. A. Bowden, R. Stewart, N. J. Bax, M. Consalvey,
and R. J. Kloser. 2010. Seamount megabenthic assemblages fail to recover from trawling impacts. Marine Ecology 31:183–199.
QUALITY OF DATA USED IN THE ASSESSMENT
Good with analyses peer reviewed
CUSTODIAN AND LOCATION OF DATA
CSIRO, data is accessible through the CSIRO Data trawler (see On-line resource links for specific datasets)
METHOD USED TO DETERMINE STATE OR RECENT TREND
Expert assessment based on peer review publications.
When citing this Expert Assessment in a list of references use the following format:
citation author name/s (year metadata published), metadata title. Citation author organisation/s. File identifier and Data
accessed at (add http link).