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New mapping project reveals what lies beneath the sea at Wilsons Promontory

Wednesday 19 June, 2013

A new project to map Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park is revealing what lies beneath the sea in this area for the first time.

Parks Victoria and Deakin University teams have worked in partnership to map the entire Marine National Park using some of the most advanced seafloor mapping technology available in the world.

Parks Victoria’s Marine Science Manager Dr Steffan Howe said the project began in early April and is particularly exciting given most of the area has never been mapped before.

“We have a long term shallow reef monitoring program that has been running for over a decade in Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park but we know very little about the other habitats and deeper areas that make up the vast majority of the park.

“This is the largest marine national park in Victoria at nearly 16,000 hectares and it is a rare global example of adjoining marine and land parks which have protected landscapes from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the sea,” he said.

Discoveries by the researchers include:

· A 30 metre high underwater sand dune;

· An underwater sand spit more than 2 km long;

· Holes around 80 to 90 metres deep; and

· A number of channels on the ocean floor which may have been waterways when the park was part of the land bridge that joined the mainland to Tasmania during the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago.

“The park is one of the last major gaps in the mapping of Victoria’s marine national parks and sanctuaries. The detailed information that we gather will fill major knowledge gaps about what is in the park and be extremely valuable for managing it in the future. Mapping can help inform emergency response and future research and monitoring; track environmental change, and identify areas vulnerable to particular threats or suitable for recreational activities,” said Dr Howe.

The project is making use of Deakin University’s new marine research vessel that is fitted with state-of-the-art multi-beam sonar mapping technology. The purpose-built, nine-metre long vessel named Yolla, is part of the $5million Deakin University Warrnambool Marine and Aquaculture Science Research Initiative which is boosting marine research and teaching in regional Australia.

“Yolla has been fitted with state-of-the-art multibeam sonar and navigational equipment that will enable the collection of information on a level we have never had before,” explained Deakin environmental scientist Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou.

 “The data we can collect with Yolla will improve our understanding of the distribution and connectivity of habitats in our coastal waters.

“When you look at Google earth, you get to the coastline and you see blue for the most part. This technology enables us to penetrate through the water and see what lies beneath. It also has the capacity to measure the biomass in the water column such as schools of fish and kelp forests in three dimensional space,” he said.

For more information contact Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 1963. 

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