Along Australia’s southern coastline lies a magnificent reef system that is often overlooked.
This reef system is called The Great Soutehrn Reef (GSR) . It is a vast reef system that covers over 71k square km. It’s home to a very diverse marinelife and kelp forests.
Almost everyone has heard of the Great Barrier Reef but not The Great Southern Reef. This reef system is comprised of highly productive and complex communities of brown seaweeds and kelp forests.
It is a biological powerhouse that is only beginning to show signs of vulnerability to warming water temperatures and explosive population growth.
Australia’s southern coastline, from Brisbane to Perth, is fringed by rocky reefs dominated by “kelp forests” – highly productive, structurally complex communities of large brown seaweeds.
Kelp forests are the biological engine of the southern reef, producing as much as 65 tonnes of biomass per hectare per year, more than 16 times the yield from Australia’s most fertile wheat fields.
This biological powerhouse provides both a habitat and a rich food source in our coastal ecosystems, critical for the energy and nutrient cycles supporting the rich marine life of the reef and the wider ocean beyond shelf waters.
The reef is a global biodiversity hotspot for seaweeds, sponges, crustaceans, chordates, bryozoans, echinoderms and molluscs. Depending on the group, as many as 30-80% of species in these taxa are found nowhere else on Earth.
Due to its sheer scale and close proximity to almost 70% of the Australian population, the reef forms an integral part of Australian culture and society. It plays an important role in our national economy, supporting a broad range of tourism, recreational and commercial activities.
Just as the Great Barrier Reef is made up of almost 3,000 individual reefs dominated by corals, Australia’s numerous temperate reefs also form an entity of thousands of kilometres of rocky reefs dominated by kelp forests, inter-connected through oceanographic, ecological and evolutionary processes – truly a Great Southern Reef.