About the project


Western Australian Marine Ecosystem Research was undertaken to better characterise the southwest Australian marine coastal and shelf ecosystem structure and function. It has also enhanced our shared capacity to understand, predict and assess ecosystem response to anthropogenic and natural pressures.

CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship worked with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Geoscience Australia, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University, The University of Western Australia, the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, the WA Department of Fisheries, the Chemistry Centre of WA


  • Improved understanding of the importance of offshore/onshore exchange,longshore transport, and upper-oceanphysical processes on nutrient supply to the shelf.
  • Improved understanding of hydrodynamic influences on benthic habitat, and the exchange of water, nutrients and particles between the lagoon and outer shelf.
  • Improved quantification of the nutrient budget for coastal waters and representation of benthic primary production and bentho-pelagic coupling at both lagoon and shelf scales.
  • Improved prediction of the impact of hydrodynamics and nutrient enrichment on benthic habitats.
  • Improved understanding of physical and anthropogenic impacts on ecological interactions.
  • Better understood key ecosystem processes across gradients of human use or disturbance
  • Improved access by management agencies to data and model outputs building on the development of Data Interrogation and Visualisation Environment (DIVE).


  • The discovery of deepwater kelp beds in more than 50 metre depth off southwest WA has reinforced our understanding that kelp forests are an important feature of benthic ecosystems.
  • Leeuwin Current waters are sourced primarily from western offshore waters in summer and from the north in autumn and winter.
  • Sediment resuspension is highly important in the recycling of nutrients on the continental shelf off south-west WA. The timing and magnitude vary with annual fluctuations in the strength of the Leeuwin Current and the cooling of surface waters.

Research Articles


England PR, Phillips J, Waring JR, Symonds G, and Babcock R (2008). Modelling wave-induced disturbance in highly biodiverse marine macroalgal communities: support for the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis. Marine and Freshwater Research 59: 515–520.

Feng M, Biastoch A, Böning C, Caputi N and Meyers G (2008). Seasonal and interannual variations of upper ocean heat balance off the west coast of Australia. J. Geophys. Res. 113: C12025, doi:10.1029/2008JC004908.

Greenwood J and Soetaert K (2008). Interannual variability in the seasonal cycle of chlorophyll in the Leeuwin Current off the southwest Western Australian coast. Journal of Marine Research 66(3): 373-390.

Irvine T, Keesing J, D’Adamo N, Aquarone MC, and Adams S (2008). West-Central Australian Shelf LME. In: K. Sherman and G. Hempel (Eds.) The UNEP Large Marine Ecosystem Report: A perspective on changing conditions in LMEs of the world’s Regional Seas. UNEP Regional Seas Report and Studies No. 182. United Nations Environment Programme. Nairobi, Kenya. p 321-336.

Irvine T, Keesing J, D’Adamo N, Aquarone MC, and Adams S (2008). Southwest Australian Shelf LME. In: K. Sherman and G. Hempel (Eds.) The UNEP Large Marine Ecosystem Report: A perspective on changing conditions in LMEs of the world’s Regional Seas. UNEP Regional Seas Report and Studies No. 182. United Nations Environment Programme. Nairobi, Kenya. p 839-852.

Kleczkowski M, Babcock RC, and Clapin G (2008). Density and size of reef fishes in and around a temperate marine reserve. Marine and Freshwater Research.

Paterson HL, Feng M, Waite AM, Gomis D, Beckley LE, Holliday D, and Thompson PA (2008). Physical and chemical signatures of a developing anti-cyclonic eddy in the Leeuwin Current, Eastern Indian Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research 113: C07049.



Caputi N, de Lestang S, Feng M, and Pearce AF (2009). Seasonal variation in the long-term warming trend in water temperature off the Western Australian coast. Marine and Freshwater Research 60: 

Feng M. (2009). Eddy induced cross-shelf phytoplankton transport along the downwelling coast off Western Australia. Journal of Tropical Oceanography 28(5): 6-10. doi: 10.11978/j.issn.1009-5470.2009.05.006

Feng M, Waite AM, and Thompson PA (2009). Climate variability and ocean production in the Leeuwin Current system off the west coast of Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 92: 67-81.

Greenwood J. (2009). Shallow water dissolution of settling calcite at station ALOHA. Limnology and Oceanography, 54 (5), 1420-1424.

Hanson CE, McLaughlin MJ, Hyndes GA, and Strzelecki J (2009). Selective uptake of prokaryotic picoplankton by a marine sponge (Callyspongia sp.) within an oligotrophic coastal system. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 84: 289-297.

Keesing JK. and Irvine TR (in press). Aspects of the biology of an abundant spatangoid urchin, Breynia desoriin the Kimberley region of north-western Australia. Echinoderms in a Changing World (Proceedings of the 13th International Echinoderm Conference, Australia, 5-9 January 2009) Balkema Press

Li F, Griffiths CM, Dyt CP, Weill P, Feng M, and Jenkins C (2009). Multigrain seabed sediment transport modelling for the southwest Australian Shelf. Marine and Freshwater Research 60: 774-785.

Limbourn AJ, Babcock RC, Johnston DJ, Nichols PD, and Knott B (2009). Spatial and temporal variation in lipid and fatty acid profiles of western rock lobster pueruli at first settlement: Biochemical indicators of diet and nutritional status. Marine and Freshwater Research. 60:810-823.

Lourey MJ and Kirkman H (2009). Short lived dissolved nitrate pulses in a shallow Western Australian coastal lagoon. Marine and Freshwater Research 60: 1068-1080.

Thompson PA, Baird ME, Ingleton T and Doblin MA (2009). Long-term changes in temperate Australian coastal waters and implications for phytoplankton. Marine Ecology Progress Series 394: 1-19.

Thompson PA, Jameson I, and Blackburn SI (2009). The influence of light quality on akinete formation and germination in the toxic cyanobacterium Anabaena circinalis. Harmful Algae 8: 504–512.

Vanderklift MA, Lavery PS, and Waddington KI (2009). Intensity of herbivory on kelp by fish and sea urchins varies between inshore and offshore reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 376: 203-211. DOI:



Babcock RC, Shears NT, Alcala AC, Barrett NS, Edgar GJ, Lafferty KD, McClanahan TR and Russ GR (2010). Decadal Trends in Marine Reserves: differential rates of change for direct and indirect effects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA). 107(43): 18256–

Caputi N, Melville-Smith R, de Lestang S, Pearce A, and Feng M (2010). The effect of climate change on the western rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) fishery of Western Australia. Canadian Journal of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences

Craig PD (2010). Imposed and inherent scales in cellular automata models of habitat. Ecological Modelling 221: 2425-2434.

Denuelle A and Dunbabin M. (2010). Kelp Detection in Highly Dynamic Environments Using Texture Recognition. Proceedings of the 2010 Australasian Conference on Robotics and Automation, ACRA 2010.

Feng M, Slawinski D, Beckley L, Keesing J (2010) Retention and dispersal of shelf waters influenced by interactions of ocean boundary current and coastal geography. Marine and Freshwater Research 61: 1259–

Feng M and Wild-Allen K (2010). The Leeuwin Current. P197-210. In: K-K. Liu, L. Atkinson, R. Quinones and L. Talaue-McManus (Eds.) Carbon and Nutrient Fluxes in Continental Margins: A Global Synthesis. IGBP Book Series. Springer, Berlin. 744 pp.

Forehead HI, Thompson PA, (2010). Microbial communities of subtidal shallow sandy sediments change with depth and wave disturbance, but nutrient exchanges remain similar. Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 414:

Gartner A, Lavery PS, McMahon K, Brearley A, Barwick H (2010). Light reductions drive macroinvertebrate changes in Amphibolis griffithii seagrass habitat. Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 401: 87–100.

Greenwood J. (2010). Evidence that increased nitrogen efflux from wave-influenced marine sediment enhances pelagic phytoplankton production on the inner continental shelf of Western Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research. 61, 625-632.

Symonds G, Zhong L, and Mortimer N. Effects of wave exposure on circulation in a temperate reef environment. Journal of Geophysical Research.

Thompson PA, Bonham P, Waite AM, Clementson LA, Cherukuru N, Hassler C, and Doblin MA (2011). Contrasting oceanographic conditions and phytoplankton communities on the east and west coasts of Australia. Deep-Sea Research II58: 645–663.

Thomson D. (2010). Range extension of the hard coral Goniopora norfolkensis (Veron & Pichon 1982) to the south-east Indian Ocean. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 93:115-117.

Thomson DP and Frisch AJ (2010). Extraordinarily high coral cover on a nearshore, high-latitude reef in south-west Australia. Coral Reefs 29:923-927.

Vanderklift MA and Wernberg T. (2010). Stable isotopes reveal a consistent consumer-diet relationship across hundreds of kilometres. Marine Ecology Progress Series 403: 53-61.



Beger M, Babcock R, Booth DJ, Bucher D, Condie SA, Creese B, Cvitanovic C, Dalton SJ, Harrison P, Hoey A, Jordan A, Loder J, Malcolm H, Purcell SW, Roelfsema CM, Sachs P, Smith SDA, Sommer B, Stuart-Smith R, Thomson D, Wallace CC, Zann M and Pandolfi JM (2011). Research challenges to improve the management and conservation of subtropical reefs to tackle climate change threats. Ecological Management and Restoration Vol. 12: 7-10.

Cook K and Vanderklift MA (2011). Depletion of predatory fish by fishing in a temperate reef ecosystem leads to indirect effects on prey, but not to lower trophic levels. Marine Ecology Progress Series 432: 195-205. 

Hassler CS, Djajadikarta JR, Doblin MA, Everett JD, Thompson PA (2011). Characterisation of water masses and phytoplankton nutrient limitation in the East Australian Current separation zone during spring 2008. Deep-Sea Research II 58: 664-677.

Keesing .K, Irvine TR, Alderslade P, Clapin G, Fromont J, Hosie A, Huisman J, Phillips J, Naughton KM, Marsh LM, Slack-Smith S, Thomson D, and Watson J. (2011). Marine benthic flora and fauna of Gourdon Bay and the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 94: 285-301 (Kimberley Special issue).

Keesing JK, Graham F, Irvine T, and Crossing R. (2011) Synchronous aggregated pseudocopulation of the sea star Archaster angulatus Muller and Troschel, 1842 (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) and its reproductive cycle in south-western Australia. Marine Biology 158: 1163-1173.

Lawrence JM, Keesing JK, and Irvine TR (in press) (2011). Population characteristics and biology of two populations of Archaster angulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) in different habitats off the central-western Australian coast. Journal of the Marine Biological Association UK

Lozano-Montes HM, Loneragan NR, Babcock RC, and Jackson J (2011). Using trophic flows and ecosystem structure to model the effects of fishing in the Jurien Bay Marine Park, temperate Western Australia Marine and Freshwater Research. 62:1-11.

Pattiaratchi C, Hollings B, Woo M, and Welhena T (2011). Dense shelf water formation along the south‐west Australian inner shelf. Geophysical Research Letters38, L10609, doi:10.1029/2011GL046816.

Rivers DO, Kendrick GA, and Walker DI (2011). Microsites play an important role for seedling survival in the seagrass Amphibolis antarctica. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 401: 29-35.

Rousseaux C, Thompson P, Greenwood J, and Descy JP. Diel vertical migration of dinoflagellates as a mechanism to decrease the impact of microzooplankton grazing. Marine and Ecology Progress Series.

Thompson PA, Wild-Allen K, Lourey M, Rousseaux C, Waite AM, Feng M and Beckley LE. Nutrients in an oligotrophic boundary current: Evidence of a new role for the Leeuwin Current. Progress in Oceanography,



Program: WAMSI 2006-2011

Completed: October 2011

Location: Western Australia

Project Leader: Dr John Keesing (CSIRO)



Summary Report