50 Australian Scientists At Aims

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30th October 2009, 07:42pm - Views: 562





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MEDIA RELEASE

50 AUSTRALIAN SCIENTISTS AT AIMS 


Media contacts: Dr Ian Poiner, AIMS director; Professor Nic Bax, Marine Biodiversity Research

Hub director, 0409 020 545

Ancient climate change and its affect on modern marine environments is one of the topics being

discussed in Townsville this week by some 50 scientists from the Marine Biodiversity Research Hub.

The scientists from the Hub are devising a national approach to marine conservation. Increasing the

uptake of Australia's marine biodiversity research efforts is a key goal for the Marine Biodiversity

Research Hub funded under the Australian Government’s Commonwealth Environment Research

Facilities Programme.

The University of Tasmania is the host organisation to a research group that includes CSIRO’s Wealth

from Oceans National Research Flagship, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine

Science and Museum Victoria.

“Marine Biodiversity Hub scientists have been working on the taxonomic, genetic, and

biogeographic work that underpins an accurate biogeography of Australia’s marine fauna,” AIMS

director Dr Ian Poiner said.

“One aim of the meeting of scientists in Townsville is to interpret these new findings in terms of the

history of Australia’s marine biodiversity.

“Understanding the origins of Australia’s marine biodiversity will help us understand how it will react

to future climate change.

“To do this, we must not merely look at a map of diversity on the present continent and seafloor. 

“We have to think about how the geology – and with it the sea-level and ocean currents – have

changed over time and led to the patterns in biodiversity that we see today.”

Marine Biodiversity Research Hub director Professor Nic Bax said the collaboration with scientists

from Geoscience Australia is providing the opportunity to understand how the breakup of East

Gondwana and subsequent opening of the Tasman Sea contributed to modern day biodiversity.

“The breakup of East Gondwana spanned an interval of about 50 million years (Ma) between ~100

Ma and 52 Ma before the present,” Professor Bax said.

“Seafloor spreading commencing between ~95 Ma and ~83 Ma formed the Tasman Basin and

allowing the development of major ocean current patterns along the eastern margin of Australia.

People Feature Australian Institute Of Marine Science 4 image

“Both topography and currents are important in determining patterns in biodiversity – current can

make even distant locations functionally close if the animals have a free-swimming stage.

Topography can make even adjacent areas appear distant, for example where deep water separates

shallow areas that hold animals that do not have a free-living stage.”

Professor Bax said molecular phylogeography and evolutionary biology are being used to evaluate

climatic and geological events responsible for the distribution of marine biota along the western and

southern Australian coasts.

“Molecular phylogeography and evolutionary biology approaches are being applied by hub scientists

at AIMS to selected animal taxa, to describe their patterns of distribution and divergence

Correlations of these patterns with past climatological and geological events will help us understand

how such taxa are likely to respond to current and future environmental changes.

“For example, experts from the Museum Victoria identified 77 families of over 500 nominal decapod

crustacean species collected on a CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship Voyage of Discovery along the

tropical to temperate continental margin of southern and central western Australia. Thirty-three per

cent of the species are thought to be new to science.

“The more abundant and diverse families constitute an exceptional model system for evaluating

historical processes responsible for the present observed distribution patterns of the Western

Australian fauna.

BACKGROUND: MARINE BIODIVERSITY RESEARCH HUB

Increasing the uptake of Australia's marine biodiversity research efforts is a key goal for the Marine

Biodiversity Research Hub funded under the Australian Government’s Commonwealth Environment

Research Facilities Programme.

“Achieving this goal will see some of the nation’s top scientists working together in this Hub to

predict the distribution of marine biodiversity,” CSIRO’s Professor Nic Bax, who is the Hub’s director,

said.

“Our job then will be to provide improved tools to conserve and manage marine biodiversity, in a

multiple-use environment.

"Over half of Australia lies under the oceans, and higher level biodiversity in the oceans is three

times that of even the most diverse regions on land.  This huge marine resource is already of more

economic value to Australia than our agriculture, and it's growing fast.

"Through the Marine Biodiversity Hub, we aim to provide predictive capacity for Australia’s

seascape, and the Hub will build research capacity and collaboration between marine research

agencies.”

Professor Bax said the Hub will also provide new tools to support the identification, assessment,

conservation and sustainable use of Australia’s marine assets, including enhancing the National

Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA). The Marine Biodiversity Hub has

funding of $17.7 million through to mid 2010.

The University of Tasmania is the host organisation to a research group that includes CSIRO’s Wealth

from Oceans Flagship, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Museum

Victoria.


For further information, contact: Professor Nic Bax 0409 020 545






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