You are here

Sediment Record


Historical reconstructions from the sediment record of water column variability as an influence on coral reefs

Other Details: 

Kimberly Marine Research Program: Project 2.2.9
Location: Roebuck Bay, Camden Sound
Project Leader: John Keesing, CSIRO
Telephone: 9333 6500

Final Report

Sediment Records in the Kimberley_WAMSI KMRP Report 2.2.9_Keesing et al 2017_FINAL



  • The objective of the project is to reconstruct a timeline of inferred water quality changes from the sediment record for a selected set of sites in the Kimberley. The results will determine the level of variability and change in water quality over the last 100 years and provide a baseline against which future changes can be assessed.

Proposed Methods

  • Sediment cores to 1.5 m taken by a vibrating corer from a vessel or impact corer operated by divers.
  • Water depth will always be 10m plus
  • Three replicate cores are taken at two locations at each site. The cores will be sectioned into 1cm intervals and used  to establish an age profile in the sediment (Pb210, Cs137) along with the time course of any change in sediment biogeochemical parameters (organic C, total N), phytoplankton biomass and type (diatom skeletons and dinoflagellate cysts and biochemical markers (brassicasterol and dinosterol).
  • The work would involve collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Science through a postdoc who would spend time in Australia during the core sampling and sectioning phase of the project and then carry out the analytical work on the core samples back in China.

Project Duration 2013-2015

Geographic Range

  • Cygnet Bay
  • King Sound
  • Camden Sound
  • King George River
  • Northern Kimberley TBA


As a result of the increase in human usage and likely impacts in the region there is an imperative to gain an understanding of the historical and baseline environmental condition ahead of these impacts. In addition, this century scientists and managers will for the first time face having to untangle impacts from local and global impacts on the environment. This process is difficult without a good series of data collected pre-impact. This project will seek to establish baseline and historical water quality in the Kimberley information ahead of major local impacts and will help enable interpretation of the changes that may have occurred in recent years from climate change.

Research Articles

Yuan Z, Liu D, Masqué P, Zhao M, Song X, Keesing J K (2020) Phytoplankton Responses to Climate‐Induced Warming and Interdecadal Oscillation in North‐Western Australia. Paleoceaonography and Paleoclimatology doi:10.1029/2019PA003712

Yuan Z, Liu D, Keesing, J K, Zhao M, Guo S, Peng Y, Zhang H (2018) Paleoecological evidence for decadal increase in phytoplankton biomass off northwestern Australia in response to climate change. Ecology and Evolution doi:10.1002/ece3.3836

Liu D, Peng Y, Keesing JK, Wang Y, Richard P (2016) Paleo-ecological analyses to assess long-term environmental effects of pearl farming in Western Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series doi:10.3354/meps11740


Keesing J. Historical reconstructions of water quality in the Kimberley using sediment records. WAMSI Research Conference 2017 (audioPresentation slides

Keesing J, Historical reconstructions of water quality in the Kimberley using sediment records WAMSI Presentation at Parks and Wildlife, Kensington (27 July 2017) (Presentation Audio) (Presentation Slides)

WAMSI Research Conference 2015 (1st April 2015):

Prof Dongyan Liu (Chinese Collaborator) presented at the Coastal & Estuarine Research Foundation Conference (Portland Oregan, 12 Nov 15) - focus of presentation was on the pearl oyster sample results

Australian Marine Sciences Association annual conference, Geelong, 2014

News Stories

Sediment timeline reveals climate change influence on Kimberley (WAMSI 2018)

Field report from research vessels in Camden Sound, Kimberley region (WAMSI 2014)