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A Desert of Life

Life blooms in the underwater deserts of Australia's Cool Seas.

Other than Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent on earth. Australia's low rainfall and poor soils mean that very few nutrients travel from land to reach its coastal waters. This is particularly true in southern Australia's nutrient-poor waters.

Just like Australia's nutrient-poor land deserts, the cool seas of southern Australia are home to an astonishing variety of living things, each specialised to live in a world where food is scarce.

Most people are surprised to discover that the underwater deserts of southern Australia are some of the world's most biodiverse places, homes to animals and plants found nowhere else in the world.

A Blue Devil fish in a Cool Seas sponge garden - Victoria, Australia.
Photo courtesy of Steve Frlan
- (use for education purposes only.)

More diverse than a rainforest?

Blue devil fish, 30K

The ecological problems facing the world's rainforests are well publicised and many people are concerned that unknown species are facing extinction every day. Similar publicity is often given to tropical reefs, but some temperate areas are equally significant in terms of their biodiversity - and the threats they face.

In a study by the Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute and the Museum of Victoria, an area of just 10m2 off Victoria's south-eastern coast revealed over 300 different animal species. This study shows that there are cool water communities which have higher biodiversity than many rainforests - an idea that many people find surprising. This is the only study of its kind to be performed in southern Australia - imagine what future studies may reveal!

For more information on Australia's marine diversity, check out Environment Australia's State of the Marine Environment Report.

Go to our links page for more images of Cool Seas habitats

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