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Subtidal rocky reefs

As the name suggests, subtidal rocky reefs are composed of rocks (e.g. granite, limestone, basalt) which are always submerged, even at low tide. Found in both deep and shallow waters, they provide an essential, solid foundation which many plants and animals need to survive. Erosion from wave action can create rock overhangs and crevices which provide shelter and protection to the species which live there.

Subtidal rocky reefs are home to a fascinating and diverse range of marine plants and animals. Shallower reefs can support extensive plant communities forming kelp forests whereas deeper communities can be brilliantly coloured due to the huge diversity of sponges and marine invertebrates. Even though Victorian reefs are temperate, bright corals are common in many areas as well as magnificent fish.

The reefs are vital to the survival of many species, including commercially viable species such as abalone and rock lobsters. They also provide an excellent site for divers and snorkellers to experience a huge range of Victoria’s marine life.

Key Threats

  • Fishing or removal of animals and plants
  • Marine pests such as the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) or Japanese Kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) which compete for food or space
  • Trampling of reef plants and animals by visitors
  • Anchor damage
  • Climate change effects including sea level rise, warming sea surface temperatures, and increasing ocean acidity.

Where to see rocky reefs

Explore Victoria's Rock Reefs brochure (PDF 2.6mb)

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