Marine ecosystems

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) Marine Ecosystems Science Program focuses on factors that impact marine ecosystem management. These include:

  • processes that degrade the environment
  • climate change
  • tools to assess and mitigate environmental impacts and rehabilitate environments
  • environmental assessments
  • biosecurity
  • research into iconic and threatened, endangered and protected species (TEPS)
  • oceanography
  • understanding how marine ecosystems function.

The program provides scientific and technical advice across government, industry and the community.

Associate Professor Tim Ward leads this program, which has 4 interacting subprograms:

  • Environmental Assessment, Migration and Rehabilitation
  • Marine Biosecurity
  • Oceanography
  • Threatened, Endangered and Protected Species (TEPS).


Environmental Assessment, Mitigation and Rehabilitation

This subprogram undertakes research into the sustainable use of marine ecosystems.

Key research areas are:

  • investigating causes of marine environmental degradation
  • developing strategies to mitigate potential degradation
  • rehabilitating degraded habitats
  • deep-sea benthic ecology.

Major projects by the group include:

  • an extensive study of the benthic ecology of the Great Australian Bight
  • seagrass rehabilitation along the Adelaide metropolitan coast
  • a survey of the possible impacts of climate change on marine invertebrates
  • research into the health of reefs between the Murray Mouth and Yorke Peninsula.

We also conduct commercial environmental impact assessments.

Subprogram contact

Associate Professor Jason Tanner (PDF 392.2 KB)
Phone: (08) 8429 0119

Marine Biosecurity

This subprogram undertakes research into the distribution, environmental impact, control and eradication of invasive marine organisms and diseases.

Successes include:

  • the large-scale removal of the introduced marine pest, Caulerpa taxifolia, from West Lakes including:
    • a risk assessment to define the potential for spread
    • surveillance and management priorities for the alga
  • ongoing development and implementation of molecular tools for marine pest surveillance.

A key component of this subprogram’s capacity is a physical containment facility for aquatic biosecurity research in South Australia. Other key capabilities are risk analysis and spatial modelling.

Subprogram contact

Dr Marty Deveney (PDF 199.7 KB)
Phone: (08) 8429 0742


This subprogram conducts oceanographic research to provide scientific and technical advice to a range of government and industry-funded projects, and other researchers.

A thorough understanding of the marine environment requires knowledge of both physical and biological oceanography. This knowledge underpins sustainable marine management by examining the transport and dispersal of sediments, heat, pathogens, pollutants, nutrients and marine biota in our local waters.

Recent major projects have focused on:

  • sustainable development of finfish aquaculture and South Australia’s prawn fishery
  • maintenance of the federally funded Southern Australian Integrated Marine Observing System
  • development of a robust computer model of ocean currents, surface waves, larval dispersal and phytoplankton growth.

Key fields of activity include:

  • physical oceanography
  • biological oceanography
  • ocean modelling
  • the Southern Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (SAIMOS)
  • research to support the sustainable management of marine industries.

Subprogram contact

Dr Mark Doubell
Phone: (08) 84290982

Threatened, Endangered and Protected Species

This subprogram monitors and conducts assessments of impacts on marine and coastal protected species.

Our team study the foraging and population ecology of protected and iconic marine mammals, seabirds, sharks and fish. This includes their trophic and operational interactions with fisheries and aquaculture.

The SARDI team is known internationally for its innovative use of biologging technology (satellite tracking and archival data loggers). The technology helps explain the at-sea behaviour of high trophic level predators such as Australian sea lions and sharks.

We are currently working on the application of:

  • ecosystem models and ecological performance measures for management purposes, such as marine protected areas
  • high trophic level predators as sentinels of ecosystem and climate change are also being developed.

Subprogram contact

Professor Simon Goldsworthy (PDF 391.4 KB)
Phone: (08) 8429 0268


Major collaborative partners include:

Program leader

Associate Professor Tim Ward
Science Leader, Marine Ecosystems
SARDI Aquatic Sciences
PO Box 120 Henley Beach SA 5022

Phone: (08) 8207 5433
Fax: (08) 8207 5415

Page Last Reviewed: 13 Mar 2015
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