The Marine Futures Project was designed to benchmark the current status of key Western Australian marine ecosystems, based on an improved understanding of the relationship between marine habitats, biodiversity and our use of these values. Approximately 1,500 km2 of seafloor were mapped using hydroacoustics (Reson 8101 Multibeam), and expected benthic habitats "ground-truthed" using towed video transects and baited remote underwater video systems. Both sources of information were then combined in a spatial predictive modelling framework to produce fine-scale habitat maps showing the extent of substrate types, biotic formations, etc.
Surveys took place across 9 study areas, including the Capes region of southwest Western Australia. The area is one of the most diverse temperate marine environments in Australia. Warm, tropical waters of the Leeuwin Current mingle with the cool waters of the Capes Current, resulting in high finfish diversity, including tropical and temperate species, as well as internationally significant seagrass diversity with meadows occurring at depths greater than 40 metres. The region's geomorphology is complex with an array of intertidal and subtidal reef environments. Many marine plants and animals are endemic to the southern coast of Australia due to its long geographical isolation, with seagrass, algae and estuarine habitats functioning as spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for a wide range of invertebrates and fish. Significant numbers of marine mammals also frequent the area, including the blue whale, the largest of all marine creatures.