VITAL ROLE: Sea ranger co-ordinator Des Purcell and sea ranger Kelvin Rowe get down to business.
VITAL ROLE: Sea ranger co-ordinator Des Purcell and sea ranger Kelvin Rowe get down to business.

Reef project combines indigenous knowledge, Western science

COMMUNITY groups along the Great Barrier Reef have received $1.4million to execute 25 reef protection projects, including seven linked to the Gladstone region.

Among these is the two-year Community Caring for Sea Country: Seagrass, Saltmarsh and Turtles project, which is being led by Gidarjil Development Corporation.

The Bustard Bay project will let Gidarjil land and sea rangers learn more about the health of the area's seagrass and saltmarshes through field-based training and data collection.

Gidarjil sea country manager Brent McLellan said understanding seagrass meadows would improve protection methods and build the reef's resilience.

Mr McLellan said two permanent monitoring sites were chosen for their easy access.

"The sites are intertidal, so no in-water activities are necessary to undertake monitoring .... increasing youth engagement opportunities," he said.

He said seagrass meadows played a vital role in sustaining wildlife.

"Seagrass and saltmarsh communities are highly productive habitats for many species ... and important food resources for turtles and dugongs," he said.

"They also deliver ecosystem services such as improving water quality, sequestering carbon, and nutrient cycling.

Mr McLellan said the Gladstone region's seagrass meadows were relatively less impacted by large industry and "major river influences".

He said impacted meadows relied on "donor" meadows for seed bank replenishment.

"Monitoring programs in adjacent regions indicate that the current state of seagrass is declining along the agricultural and urban Great Barrier Reef," he said.

"This project will contribute valuable information to several long-term monitoring databases that are useful for data comparison to assist the management of coastal environments and prevent significant areas and species being lost."

Work will be carried out by eight Gidarjil rangers with help from Port Curtis Coral Coast region elders, members of the Discovery Coast Environmental Group and Aboriginal youth from Gidarjil's junior and cadet ranger programs.

Mr McLellan said the project aimed to combine indigenous ecological knowledge with Western science.

"Traditional elders, with their decades of personal experience combined with that of their ancestors, harbour vast knowledge about marine environments, connectivity and ecological relationships," he said.

"Elders' perspectives are holistic and founded upon interconnectedness.

"(This) increases individual feelings of stewardship of the environment and provides insight into environmental change."

The project funding came from a partnership between the Australian Government's Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.



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