Understanding habitat-species relationships
To better understand the distribution and diversity of fish associated with the seafloor (demersal fish), collaborative research using Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS) has been undertaken with the University of Western Australia (UWA) at Cape Howe Marine National Park and is underway with Deakin University at Discovery Bay, Twelve Apostles and Point Addis marine national parks and Merri Marine Sanctuary. BRUVS are used for this research because they are non-extractive, allow data collection at all depths (10-100m) and acquire both broad scale and fine scale data.
During the research completed with UWA, 247 one hour drops were performed. The BRUVS recorded video footage at various locations within the park and key physical factors which may affect fish distribution. This project provided valuable insight into the distribution of demersal fish and how these fish use benthic habitats. Demersal fish distribution was affected by both depth and substrate type, however substrate type did not have an effect at all depths. These results can be utilised by Parks Victoria to help effectively monitor and manage this key group of marine species across all Marine Protected Areas.
The research underway with Deakin will utilise observational data from BRUVS and integrate this with information on seafloor structure and seafloor habitat which was obtained from LiDAR and multibeam sonar mapping initiatives. From this research, Parks Victoria will be able to identify fish-habitat associations and assess associations with seafloor plants and animals and also landscape attributes. This will help to fill critical knowledge gaps about ecosystem composition and function.