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Great Southern Seascapes

The southern coastlines of temperate Australia are home to some of the most diverse collections of underwater seascapes in the world. From giant kelp forests, to vast seagrass meadows, high-latitude mangroves, cool-water corals and kaleidoscopic sponge gardens, 85 percent of the estimated 12,000 marine species here are found nowhere else on Earth.

These seascapes provide over 19 million Australians (80 percent of the total population) and five-out-of-eight capital cities with fresh seafood, abundant recreational opportunities and critical waste treatment and removal. Paradoxically, however, southern seascapes are also known as the “forgotten coastlines.” Until now, relatively little attention has been paid to protecting or restoring coastal habitats and the essential human services they provide.

Australia’s oceans are expected to contribute $100 billion per annum to our economy by 2025, yet there is increasing uncertainty in how our oceans will cope with growing exploitation and climate change. Thus, our planning, conservation and investment decisions need to factor in the health and resilience of Australia’s oceans.

Dr. Peter Macreadie

Deakin University

Projects and Places

Port Phillip Bay

Port Phillip Bay Saltmarsh (credit Donna Squire/Deakin University)

Port Phillip Bay and Western Port lie on the doorstep of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest and fastest growing city with a population of 4.4 million people. Within these bays lies an intermingling network of saltmarsh, mangroves and seagrass habitats. Importantly, these marine habitats are the only habitats on earth that can store atmospheric carbon dioxide for millennia.

It is estimated that Melbourne’s marine habitats store the equivalent of 5% of the city’s annual carbon emissions and enhance our coastal fisheries, at the rate of 1 kg of fish per year, just those two benefits are worth up to $110m annually. These, and other findings were part of a case study on ecosystem services written for the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria   and its 2016 State of the Bays Report.  This included preliminary maps developed for coastal blue carbon and fish productivity for Victoria.

The Mapping Ocean Wealth project in Australia is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Deakin University, Department of Land Water and Planning, Victoria, Victorian Fisheries Authority, Parks Victoria, NSW Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries, and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage with support from The Thomas Foundation, HSBC Australia, Ian Potter Foundation and Australian Research Council.

Richmond River Estuary


Our Approach

The generalized Mapping Ocean Wealth method can be summarized as “Review–Model–Map”. By reviewing and analyzing existing information about ecosystems and ecological processes (Review), we can use that information to construct new mathematical models, “production functions”, to better understand the social and economic benefits provided by coastal ecosystems (Model).  OzMOW has broadly followed this approach, however data isn’t always available to review, so a new, very conventional step has been added “Review–Collect–Model–Map”. To this end the MOW Oz team have been out amongst Australia’s mangroves, seagrass and saltmarsh collecting new data. The data collecting step has enabled us to use a number of novel and exciting technologies, but also some well established tools of the trade.


Scientific use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones is growing.

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Mobile Phones & Satellites

Mobile phone and GPS data has recently been used to monitor human population changes almost in real time (REFS).

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Soil Cores & Measuring Tape

The OzMOW team are collecting sediment core samples and taking vegetation measurements from saltmarsh, mangroves, and seagrasses across southeastern Australia.

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Project Team & Partners

Dr. Paul Carnell


Dr. Peter Macreadie

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Simon Reeves

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Photo Credits