About the theme


The unique tidal regime and harsh environmental conditions of the inshore Kimberley provide a new frontier for understanding ecological connectivity and the environmental influences on the dispersal of marine larvae. How far marine organisms move in their lifetimes depends on the interplay between their biology (capacity to swim or float) and the physical environment such as ocean currents and the distribution of habitat.

“Connectivity” describes how the movements of organisms can link the fates of distant populations. It determines the distribution and abundance of marine organisms and is especially important in enabling recovery after disturbance.

Environmental managers can use an understanding of connectivity within marine systems to help in the design of management strategies, such as marine protected areas and the identification of fishery stocks.

This project investigated the connectivity of marine species in the Kimberley that have a range of capacities for movement.


  • Broadly, to characterise ecological connectivity at multiple spatial scales in a suite of Kimberley marine organisms (i.e. seagrass, corals, molluscs and fish).
  • To determine how far seeds of plants and the larvae of animals travel before settling and becoming established (i.e. within a reef  (hundreds of metres), between reefs (kilometres/tens of kilometres) or across the region (tens/hundreds of kilometres)).
  • To determine whether populations of plants and animals in other bays, and parts of the Kimberley, will help in the recovery of those around Cygnet Bay, if there are severe disturbances in Cygnet Bay (e.g. cyclone).


  • Select species for sampling based on their importance as habitat forming species, a harvested species or their trophic role.
  • Collect species of seagrass, molluscs, corals and fish, inter-tidally and sub-tidally, from sites within the Kimberley for comparison across the region and with more distant regions (e.g. Pilbara, Gascoyne).
  • Conduct genetic analyses of samples collected.


  • Better understanding of  the scales of connectivity among populations of organisms in the Kimberley that will inform management strategies that protect healthy sources of recruits and nurture resilience in marine ecosystems.
  • Aid in the design of Marine Protected Areas by identifying areas that may supply new individuals to populations after they have been impacted by disturbances.
  • Build capacity amongst scientists, locals and Indigenous rangers to ensure the protection of the marine environment in the Kimberley.


Project News

Ecological connectivity in the Kimberley

Kimberley reef life considered on microscopic level 

Going with the flow in the Kimberley 

Secrets of the green sea turtle revealed

Click here to listen to Dr Oliver Berry talking about turtle nesting on ABC Kimberley



Berry O, Richards Z, Moore G, Hernawan U, Travers M, Gruber B (2019) Oceanic and coastal populations of a harvested macroinvertebrate Rochia nilotica in north-western Australia are isolated and may be locally adapted. Marine and Freshwater Research 

DiBattista J, Travers M, Moore G, Evans R, Newman S, Feng M, Moyle S, Gorton R, Saunders T, Berry O. (2017) Seascape genomics reveals fine-scale patterns of dispersal for a reef fish along the ecologically divergent coast of Northwestern Australia. Mol Ecol. 2017;00:1–18.

Hernawan U, Van Dijk K, Kendrick G, Feng M, Biffin E, Lavery P, McMahon K (2017) Historical processes and contemporary ocean currents drive genetic structure in the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii in the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Molecular Ecology DOI:10.1111/mec.13966

Underwood JN, Richards Z, Berry O, Oades D, Howard A, Gilmour JP. (2020) Extreme seascape drives local recruitment and genetic divergence in brooding and spawning corals in remote northwest Australia. Evol Appl.

Underwood J, Richards Z, K Miller, Puotinen ML, Gilmour JP (2018) Genetic signatures through space, time and multiple disturbances in a ubiquitous brooding coral. Molecular Ecology

Richards Z, O’Leary M, The coralline algal cascades of Tallon Island (Jalan) fringing reef, NW Australia. Coral Reefs June 2015, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 595-595 First online: 04 February 2015 doi: 10.1007/s00338-015-1262-6



Ecological connectivity of Kimberley Marine Communities (2017 WAMSI Research Conference)

Ontogenetic niche separation and connectivity of fishes from the Kimberley region, Western Australia, using otolith geochemistryEcological connectivity of Kimberley Marine Communities (Parks and Wildlife Lunch and Learn session)

Ecological connectivity in the Kimberley (2015 WAMSI Research Conference)


Program: Kimberley Marine Research

Location: Buccaneer Archipelago, Cygnet Bay and King Sound area

Theme Leader: Oliver Berry, CSIRO



Combined Report

Executive Summary

Synthesis Report





Stripey Snapper

Fish Otoliths