The Australian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) contains1.6 million km 2 of submarine plateaus, equal to about 13.8% of the world's known inventory of these features. This disproportionate occurrence of plateaus presents Australia with an increased global responsibility to understand and protect the benthic habitats and associated ecosystems. This special volume presents the results of two major marine surveys carried out on the Lord Howe Rise plateau during 2003 and 2007, during which benthic biological and geological samples, underwater photographs, video and multibean sonar bathymetry data were collected. The benthic habitats present on Lord Howe Rise are dominated by slowly-accumulating, low-energy, soft-sediment habitats, but also include hard/rocky substrates covering a small area of volcanic peaks (around 31 km 2) and parts of other larger seamounts (e.g., the Lord Howe Island seamount) which support rich and abundant epifaunal assemblages dominated by suspension feeding invertebrates. These rocky habitats appear to qualify as ecologically and biologically significant areas under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) scientific selection criteria 1 (uniqueness or rarity), 4 (vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity or slow recovery) and 7 (naturalness). The collection of papers included in this special volume represents a major advance in knowledge about benthic habitats of the Lord Howe Rise, but also about the ecology of submarine plateaus in general.