Subtidal seagrass of western Torres Strait

Carter, A.B., McKenna, S.A., and Shepherd, L. (2021) Subtidal seagrass of western Torres Strait. Report. James Cook University, Cairns, QLD, Australia.

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This report describes a baseline survey of subtidal seagrass in the Western Cluster of Torres Strait that occurred in December 2020, as a collaboration between the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Land and Sea Management Unit (LSMU), Rangers and Traditional Owners from Badu, Mabuyag and Moa Islands, and James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER).

Western Torres Strait has long been identified as an ecologically important region, with extensive seagrass habitat and high densities of dugong and green turtles. Despite this, large areas of the region had not been surveyed previously, and in other areas spatial data was more than a decade old.

The survey was also a response to significant declines in seagrass condition in the Mabuyag-Orman Reefs area, particularly for subtidal seagrass, detected by long-term monitoring programs.

Over 300,000 ha of subtidal seagrass was mapped across 27 meadows. This included large, continuous meadows north of Mabuyag Island to Buru Island, and east of the Orman Reefs to Gebar Island, and a large but patchy meadow in the north-east section of the Dugong Sanctuary. Nine seagrass species were recorded.

Seagrass meadows in 2020 were generally patchier, smaller, and the previously dominant subtidal species H. spinulosa was gone from most sites in regions where previous survey data was available for comparison.

This assessment of Western Cluster subtidal seagrass provides essential habitat information to the TSRA, Traditional Owners, and the Australian and Queensland governments. This information can be used for community-based Dugong and Turtle Management Plans

Spatial data produced for this report is available on eAtlas (

We recommend: (1) ongoing Ranger-led subtidal seagrass monitoring on the western side of Orman Reefs and the north-eastern part of the Dugong Sanctuary, (2) expansion of subtidal monitoring to include meadows east of the Orman Reefs and/or close to Badu Island, and (3) undertake baseline subtidal surveys in areas adjacent to the December 2020 survey, particularly in the southern Dugong Sanctuary.

Item ID: 70839
Item Type: Report (Report)
Keywords: seagrass, Torres Strait, benthic habitat, dugong, turtle
Copyright Information: © James Cook University, 2021.
Funders: Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA)
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2021 00:13
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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