Conservation, Education & Research
Top - Estimating pneumatophore density as measures of trampling damage and impact in Moreton Bay, Queensland
Conservation & Education
Australians are generally aware that mangrove ecosystems play an important role as habitat to fish and crabs. Some are aware also of the more complex environmental conditions affecting this unique ecotone between land and sea. Less appreciated, however, are the details surrounding these relationships, the various benefits, the drivers of change, and their effects on an inherent vulnerability of mangroves. Recent education programs have been undertaken to address the situation and to improve public awareness of Australia’s mangroves and their role in coastal and marine ecosytems. But, there is a long way to go. More research on mangroves is required urgently to improve the management of emerging issues like climate change, coupled with the unprecedented pressures and impacts of community sea-change expansion into coastal areas.
Raising Awareness and Appreciation
Australia’s mangroves are a valuable educational resource and they are the focus of much study and constant wonder. Aspects of mangrove ecology are an important part of the curriculum of many schools and a number of universities. The Marine Education Society of Australasia (MESA http://www.mesa.edu.au) hosts a website and has been active, for example, in the marine protected areas debate to promote the importance of these areas for education. Some biological companies are also researching mangroves as a potential source of new commercial products. Fishweb has been established in Queensland and includes the interactive Natures Nautical Nurseries software to encourage better understanding and appreciation of mangrove and other intertidal communities.
Left - Joint University of Queensland and Environmental Protection Agency research in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland.
- Measuring canopy health of mangroves in Moreton Bay, Queensland.
- Sampling water nutrients affecting mangroves in the Johnstone River, Queensland.
Research – Seeking New Wisdom
The Australian government is directly involved in research and funds several research organizations. In total, Australia allocates around 7% of its research and development funding to marine science and technology. Research on Australia’s mangroves was boosted in the past by the establishment in 1972 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). Research sites, complete with boardwalks, were established in a number of mangrove ecosystems around the country to facilitate research and education. Unfortunately, the emphasis by AIMS on mangroves has since declined in recent years.
An Eye for the Future
There are a number organisations currently conducting research and monitoring with direct and/or indirect relevance to mangrove ecosystems and their management. Many of these organisations are funded in part by the Commonwealth and State governments, coupled with Industry support. These organizations include:- 1) The University of Queensland, Griffith University, Charles Darwin University, James Cook University, Australian Catholic University, Australian National University, Flinders University and Central Queensland University; 2) the Australian Institute of Marine Science, based in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, was arguably the lead organization for mangrove research in Australia, and possibly the world, between 1975 and 1995; and, 3) the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) supports a number of Cooperative research Centres (CRCs) with research targets developed in collaboration with government agencies, industry, universities and local organisations. Of particular relevance to mangrove ecosystems and management until recently had been the CRC for Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management (Coastal CRC). In very recent times, a major shift in environmental management strategy and funding has been the National Heritage Trust (NHT) Program in conjunction with the establishment of regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups around the country. This national initiative is designed to promote and facilitate broad community education, monitoring and targeted research on key natural resources, including mangroves and tidal wetlands.