Marine Biodiversity

Key Contact

Professor Steve Smith
t: +61 2 6648 3908
e: steve.smith@scu.edu.au

The subtropical waters of northern NSW are an ideal place to investigate marine biodiversity, because they lie at the junction between the tropical waters of the East Australian Current and the warm-temperate waters of the Tasman Sea. This area is also one of the major areas of population growth in NSW (the "seachange" phenomenon) which provides the opportunity to assess, monitor and manage impacts on coastal resources.

Staff research interests include the breadth of coastal marine and estuarine habitats including coastal reefs and sediments, mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrasses. Some local reefs support kelp (near the northern limit of its range) and others are covered in corals (near their southernmost limits). Much of the work conducted by MERC staff and students is focussed on assessing the effectiveness of marine protected areas in preserving representative examples of local marine communities, including fish, corals, sponges, kelp and invertebrates.

Members of MERC are also involved in a range of biodiversity projects outside sub-tropical Australia, with active programs in SE Asia, temperate Australia and both the subantarctic and Antarctic.

Many current research projects involve collaboration with other universities, research organisations and government agencies to address pressing management issues. In particular, MERC members work closely with the NSW Marine Parks Authority to facilitate management in Cape Byron, the Solitary Islands, and Port Stephens-Great Lakes marine parks. A large number of projects have also been facilitated by funding from the Northern Rivers and Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authorities.