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Scientists use sonar to map Bunurong Marine National Park seafloor in journey of discovery

Scientists are using sonar to get a detailed picture of the seafloor off the coast of eastern Victoria, in what is likely to be a expedition of discovery.

Bunurong Marine National Park, near Cape Paterson in Gippsland, covers 2,100 hectares and is home to 87 different species of fish and some of the most diverse seaweed communities in Victoria. Experts from Deakin University are using sonar science and video to map the marine park's seafloor in a bid to better understand how to manage and protect the area. It is part of a larger project to survey different habitats across the marine park and Wilson's Promontory National Park.

Parks Victoria's marine science manager Steffan Howe said Bunurong Marine National Park was an amazing part of the Victorian coast. "We've surveyed down to about 10 metres depth in the park probably since about 1999 as part of our monitoring program, but beyond that, below those depths, we don't have a lot of information. "Any information is going to be new and there'll be hopefully some interesting discoveries."

Dr Howe said the project was about producing more detailed seafloor maps and habitat maps, so scientists had a good understanding of the types of habitats.

"[These are] likely to be things like algal dominated reefs, soft sediments and so on, and looking at the distribution of those sorts of communities and species, so we can then use that to better inform management of that park," he said. "We found that with Wilson's Promontory, when we did some remotely operated video surveys, [we] found some really diverse invertebrate communities that were comparable in terms of their diversity to the Great Barrier Reef. "We're hoping there will be some really interesting discoveries at Bunurong as well."

Researchers from Deakin University have been using their research vessel named Yolla to conduct the mapping. The scientists will return to the water later this year to continue the survey.

Article originally published online at ABC News.

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