Deep Reefs - Biopixel Research

3D Mapping

3D mapping of the drowned reefs and bioherms (ancient reefs) using multi-beam sonar and airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) bathymetry to map their detailed shape, depth and distribution.


Imagery from underwater robots and physical sampling provide information on the variety and distribution of the marine life using these deep-water habitats.


The deep reefs and bioherms record the ancient history of how the Great Barrier Reef has responded to previous climate change.  By researching these structure, we aim to unlock the story of their origins.


In the deeper Great Barrier Reef, between depths of about 30m to 100m, lie ancient coral reefs formed when sea levels were lower. Now drowned, these deep reefs are the habitat for mesophotic (light dependent) corals and algae attached to the hard coral rock.

The northern GBR has the world’s largest area of Halimeda bioherms, or mounds of calcareous sediment built up by this green algae.  These deep reefs provide scientists with information about the reef’s resilience that can be used for its conservation



3D view of the Great Barrier Reef


Abbey, E., Webster, J.M., Beaman, R.J., 2011. Geomorphology of submerged reefs on the shelf edge of the Great Barrier Reef: The influence of oscillating Pleistocene sea-levels. Marine Geology 288(1-4), 61-78. doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2011.08.006

Beaman, R.J., Bridge, T.C.L., Lüter, C., Reitner, J., Wörheide, G., 2016. Spatial patterns in the distribution of benthic assemblages across a large depth gradient in the Coral Sea, Australia. Marine Biodiversity 46(4), 795-808. doi: 10.1007/s12526-015-0434-5

Beaman, R.J., Webster, J.M., Wust, R.A.J., 2008. New evidence for drowned shelf edge reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Geology 247, 17-34. doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2007.08.001

Bongaerts, P., Bridge, T.C.L., Kline, D.I., Muir, P.R., Wallace, C.C., Beaman, R.J., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., 2011. Mesophotic coral ecosystems on the walls of Coral Sea atolls. Coral Reefs 30(2), 335. doi: 10.1007/s00338-011-0725-7

Bridge, T., Beaman, R., Done, T., Webster, J., 2012. Predicting the location and spatial extent of submerged coral reef habitat in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Australia. PLOS ONE 7(10), e48203. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048203

Bridge, T.C.L., Done, T.J., Beaman, R.J., Friedman, A., Williams, S.B., Pizarro, O., Webster, J.M., 2011a. Topography, substratum and benthic macrofaunal relationships on a tropical mesophotic shelf margin, central Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 30(1), 143-153. doi: 10.1007/s00338-010-0677-3

Bridge, T.C.L., Done, T.J., Friedman, A., Beaman, R.J., Williams, S.B., Pizarro, O., Webster, J.M., 2011b. Variability in mesophotic coral reef communities along the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 428, 63-75. doi: 10.3354/meps09046

Brooke, B.P., Nichol, S.L., Huang, Z., Beaman, R.J., 2017. Palaeoshorelines on the Australian continental shelf: Morphology, sea-level relationship and applications to environmental management and archaeology. Continental Shelf Research 134, 26-38. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2016.12.012

Harris, P.T., Bridge, T.C.L., Beaman, R.J., Webster, J.M., Nichol, S., Brooke, B., 2013. Submerged banks in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, greatly increase available coral reef habitat. ICES Journal of Marine Science 70(2), 284-293. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fss165

Hinestrosa, G., Webster, J.M., Beaman, R.J., 2016. Postglacial sediment deposition along a mixed carbonate-siliciclastic margin: New constraints from the drowned shelf-edge reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 446, 168-185. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.01.023

Hinestrosa, G., Webster, J.M., Beaman, R.J., Anderson, L.M., 2014. Seismic stratigraphy and development of the shelf-edge reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Geology 353, 1-20. doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2014.03.016

Lindsay, D.J., Yoshida, H., Uemura, K., Yamamoto, H., Ishibashi, S., Nishikawa, J., Reimer, J.D., Beaman, R.J., Fitzpatrick, R., Fujikura, K., Maruyama, T., 2012. The untethered remotely operated vehicle PICASSO-1 and its deployment from chartered dive vessels for deep sea surveys off Okinawa, Japan, and Osprey Reef, Coral Sea, Australia. Marine Technology Society Journal 46(2), 20-32. doi: 10.4031/MTSJ.46.4.3

McNeil, M.A., Webster, J.M., Beaman, R.J., Graham, T.L., 2016. New constraints on the spatial distribution and morphology of the Halimeda bioherms of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 35(4), 1343-1355. doi: 10.1007/s00338-016-1492-2

Nishikawa, J., Fitzpatrick, R., Reimer, J.D., Beaman, R.J., Yamamoto, H., Lindsay, D.J., 2011. In situ observation of Denise’s pygmy seahorse Hippocampus denise associated with a gorgonian coral Annella reticulata at Osprey Reef, Australia. Galaxea, Journal of Coral Reef Studies 13(1), 25-26. doi: 10.3755/galaxea.13.25

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