Interested in the Kimberley Marine Research Station internship program?
Please fill in the form and we will be in touch.

Environment & Biodiversity

The Kimberley is considered one of the Earth’s greatest natural and cultural treasures. The region is rated alongside the Arctic and Antarctic as one of the planet’s largest great marine wildernesses. It represents a vast, magnificent, and relatively unexplored marine realm that has escaped human exploitation for the last 2.5 million years. 

The Kimberley bioregion represents one of Earth’s most intact large tropical marine ecosystems. Remote and pristine, the Kimberley marine environment is a place of unique natural extremes and unparallel intrinsic beauty. It has huge biodiversity value in both an Australian and international context.

The contours of the Kimberley coastline span 13, 000km. It is one of the most dynamic and complex coastlines in the world. The range of geomorphologies created by the land-sea interface along the Kimberley. The coastline features dominant mangrove, salt marsh and intertidal sand and mud flats as well as an expanse of over 2,600 islands including the Buccaneer and Bonaparte Archipelagos.

The Kimberley’s land-sea interface is dramatic and complex, it incorporates a particularly extensive intertidal zones, sheer sandstone cliffs, rock, sand, and estuarine beaches. There are near-shore seagrass meadows, fringing coral reefs and sponge gardens. The Kimberley is now regarded as the most coral diverse area in Western Australia; between roughly 240-280 species of hard coral from 55 genera have been recorded to date. These habitats have high species richness, with many species remaining unidentified and host copious communities including cnidarians, molluscs, crustaceans, fish, turtles, cetaceans, dugongs, crocodiles, manta rays and birds. 

Representing a third of Australia’s total islands, there are 2,633 Kimberley islands. Only 13% are officially named. From aerial surveys, signs of marine turtle nesting have been identified on the majority of these 2,633 islands. 

Mangroves cover 140,000ha of Kimberley coastline. These mangrove habitats are considered amongst the world’s most pristine and diverse. 14 of WA’s 17 mangrove species are found in the Kimberley region. 

There are 21 species of cetaceans regularly found in northern WA waters. The Kimberley is the newly discovered calving ground of the world’s largest population of Humpback whales. During the winter months, the world’s largest population of humpback whales migrates from Antarctic waters along the WA coastline to their newly discovered Kimberley calving grounds. 

With over 800km² of intertidal sand and mud flats, the King Sound (where KMRS is located) is the most extensive area of mudflats in the Kimberley. This intertidal area represents a globally significant foraging habitat for migratory sea and shorebirds. 

The region is highly productive and supports an abundant and diverse array of species, many of which are of biological, cultural, and commercial value. 

Climates & tides 

The tropical monsoon climate of the coastal Kimberley is characterised by a distinct wet and dry season. The wet summer season runs from November to April and features high humidity, ambient temperatures, wind, and rainfall events as well as sporadic tropical storms and cyclone activity. The dry season spans May to October and presents consistently cooler, drier conditions with less frequent extreme weather events. 

The Kimberley is extremely macro-tidal and experiences spring tidal ranges of up to 11m and strong tidal currents of up to 10kts. These are the second largest tides in the world and the largest tidal range experienced by any coral reef systems on the planet. When referencing tide charts for Broome as the nearest location, remember to add on 2.75hr for Cygnet Bay tide times. This is a key feature in what makes the Kimberley and the surrounding ecosystems and wildlife so unique due to their ever changing environmental conditions. 

To check our tides at the KMRS and surrounding area use the Bureau of Meteorology website for weather conditions at Port Usborne.