MANGROVE monitoring should have started in Gladstone 20 years ago, scientist Jock Mackenzie says.
Making up for lost time, a team of scientists, traditional landowners and mapping experts met at Barney Point on Wednesday to launch a comprehensive and long-term monitoring project.
Hector Johnson Park, an area teeming with biologically rich mangroves, was the perfect starting point.
The park was named after the father of Gooreng Gooreng traditional elder Richard Johnson, who was providing cultural, historical and scientific information to the James Cook University researchers.
"When I was a young fella there were no swings or merry-go-rounds," he said.
"Mangroves are nature's nurseries. They nurture small animals and sea life and it's where I used to come as a kid to play all day."
The importance of mangrove habitats cannot be understated.
As ecologists Dr Norm Duke and Jock Mackenzie explain, they act as a critical buffer between land and sea.
"Mangroves are coastal kidneys," Mr Mackenzie said. "The less mangroves we have, the more dirt and sediment present in the water."
Without mangroves, there is no seagrass and no coral reefs. They are protectors of marine life."
The Gladstone region may have more need for mangroves than the typical Australian coastal town, according to Dr Duke.
"Mangroves hold and absorb four to five times more carbon than the regular tree," he said.
"Especially for industries, mangroves hold an enormous range of economic potential - particularly if an emissions trading scheme is implemented."
Dr Duke said that Gladstone's immense industry had a long-term vested interest in ensuring local mangrove populations were protected. The team of scientists will remain in Gladstone until Saturday, yet the roots they have planted will last.
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