In order to maximise the conservation value of sites within a proposed system of representative marine protected areas (MPAs) around Tasmania, quantitative surveys of plants and animals were made at over 150 shallow rocky reef sites around the Tasmanian coastline and Bass Strait islands.
Data were analysed using several different methods (overlap of species ranges, multidimensional scaling and ecotone analysis) to produce a state bioregionalisation. Reef communities in the northern Bass Strait area were found to be distinctly different from those occurring further south, and are considered here to reflect a division between two biogeographical provinces.
These two areas were each divisible into four biogeographical regions (bioregions), which occurred along the northern, northeastern, southeastern, southern and western coasts of Tasmania, and around the Kent Group, the Furneaux Group and King Island in Bass Strait. At least one marine reserve within each bioregion would be required within an integrated system of representative MPAs. In addition to the production of a state-wide bioregionalisation and the identification of appropriate MPA sites, the systematic sampling programme generated a number of other benefits.
Tasmanian data have been used as baseline data (1) to assess the impact of MPAs after they have been declared; (2) to determine the biological effects of an oil spill; (3) to monitor changes in the ranges of introduced species (e.g. the kelp Undaria pinnatifida) and to detect their impacts on native species; and (4) to identify associations between marine plants and animals, including species of commercial importance.
Data are also expected to be used for monitoring long-term effects of climate change.
Edgar G.J., Moverley J., Barrett N. S., Peters D., Reed, C.