Conservation values in Commonwealth waters of the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Island remote Australian territories
Brewer, D.T., Potter, A., Skewes, T.D, Lyne, V., Andersen, J., Davies, C., Taranto, T., Heap, A. D., Murphy, N. E., Rochester, W. A., Fuller, M., Donovan, A.
CSIRO for the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
About the report
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, (CMAR) in collaboration with Geoscience Australia (GA), was asked to provide a succinct summary of the available and relevant information describing the conservation values of the marine environment under Commonwealth jurisdiction surrounding Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The conservation values were identified using a systems approach and with reference to ecological processes, habitats and biodiversity. In order to assist in developing the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA), key attributes of the conservation values, with respect to the ANZECC NRSMPA identification criteria, are also assessed.
The “systemsEapproach developed by CMAR, and used during previous projects to characterise the marine domains of the South West, North West and East Marine Planning regions was further developed in this project to identify the conservation values in what is a dynamic and unique environment under Australia’s external territories jurisdiction. The remoteness of the region and general lack of research outside of the local island scale have made this a challenging project to undertake. However, guided by the systematic approach, excellent national and international data sources and expert knowledge, we were able to provide a comprehensive appraisal of the conservation values within the context of current information and knowledge.
Overall, we found that the environment of both Christmas and Cocos EEZs are highly unique with many potential deep ocean ecological systems that we have very little understanding of. Even locally, the flora and fauna below diving depths around the islands are poorly understood. Despite these limitations, the systematic approach using available information and knowledge from other deep ocean environments suggests that many new ecological systems remain to be discovered in the EEZs of both islands. Some key results of the work are summarised below.