The remote and largely inaccessible Kimberley coast is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in the world, recognised in a 2008 report as being amongst the 3.7% least impacted marine environments worldwide, together with the high latitude polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic.
Characterised by a broad continental shelf, the area is dotted with reefs, shoals, banks and near shore islands, many of them fringed by coral reefs. At least 2,633 surveyed and mostly uninhabited islands extend through the Bonaparte and Buccaneer Archipelagos. The shallow shelving bathymetry together with the extreme tidal variation gives the Kimberley a large land-sea interaction.
The Kimberley coast is rich in species habitats, ranging from mangroves, to seagrass beds, fringing reefs, mudflats and sandy bottoms. In addition, the Kimberley boasts an extraordinarily large tidal range of more than ten metres. This results in two major effects; an extensive tidal zone and strong currents, exceeding five knots at times. The currents also stir up silts deposited by the large rivers of the Kimberley, causing high water turbidity, particularly inshore during Spring Tides.
Kimberley marine fauna consists of a largely Indo-West Pacific element, typical of Northern Australia marine faunas. Many species are either widespread throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, or more confined to the Indo-Malaysian, New Guinea and Australian sub-province1. This coast boasts a high diversity of corals and marine molluscs, which are at severe risk if sea temperatures are raised due to global warming.
To date, exploration in the marine science of the Kimberley coast has been limited by time and funding, thus there no doubt remains much to be discovered. Our own explorations have revealed many species known to exist elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific, but also found on the Kimberley coast. There is exciting work to be done on identification of all manner of marine and terrestrial flora and fauna, including sponges, anemones, nudibranches, flatworms, corals, marine flora, crustaceans, acquatic insects and fish.
Click here to view an album of coastal fauna and marine images. We welcome input on species identification. Please email us.