Torres Strait Seagrass – Dungeness Reef Baseline Survey and Dugong Sanctuary Long-term Monitoring

Carter, A.B., Wells, J.N., and Rasheed, M.A. (2017) Torres Strait Seagrass – Dungeness Reef Baseline Survey and Dugong Sanctuary Long-term Monitoring. Report. James Cook University, Cairns, QLD, Australia.

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Abstract

Torres Strait contains extensive seagrass habitat, the largest dugong population in the world, and globally significant populations of green turtles. Dugong feed exclusively on seagrass while green turtles consume seagrass and macroalgae. Seagrass diebacks have been documented twice in central Torres Strait and linked to local dugong mortality.

Community-based Dugong and Turtle Management Plans have been implemented in Torres Strait that include seasonal closures, gear restrictions, effort reduction, limits on take, compulsory sharing and closed areas. The largest closed area is the Dugong Sanctuary, which incorporates the largest single continuous seagrass meadow mapped in Australia.

Assessing and managing the health of Torres Strait seagrass requires collection of baseline information plus ongoing monitoring to understand seasonal variation and detect seagrass decline.

This report describes (1) a baseline survey of Dungeness Reef (2016-2017) including seagrass and other benthic characteristics in intertidal and subtidal reef waters; and (2) long-term monitoring of subtidal seagrass in the Dugong Sanctuary (2011-2017).

Surveys involved collaboration between Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Land and Sea Management Unit (LSMU) Rangers and the Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER). Ranger participation is essential to the success of seagrass research in Torres Strait. Rangers from Poruma, Iama and Warraber Islands were key staff in the Dungeness Reef baseline survey. Dugong Sanctuary long-term monitoring data collection was successfully undertaken by Badu and Mabuiag Island Rangers in 2016.

At Dungeness Reef 3,829 ha of subtidal seagrass and 5,035 ha of intertidal seagrass was mapped across four intertidal and four subtidal meadows. The reef also contained extensive algae habitat and hard coral communities.

Seagrass in the Dugong Sanctuary is in good condition, with distinct seasonal peaks in biomass each growing season (November-December).

Management of seagrass resources should focus on reducing anthropogenic impacts and risks to ensure resilient local seagrass meadows and, therefore, resilient dugong and turtle populations.

This report provides important habitat information for community-based Dugong and Turtle Management Plans, and provides a baseline for Dungeness Reef against which future seagrass change can be assessed. Effective management and planning requires current, spatially relevant seagrass information at the scale of individual communities’ sea country to inform community-based Dugong and Turtle Management Plans.

We recommend future research based on continued collaboration with TSRA LSMU Rangers, maintenance of existing long-term monitoring programs, expansion of baseline seagrass knowledge to areas currently lacking data, and establishment of additional long-term seagrass monitoring in a range of seagrass habitats, with a particular focus on subtidal and remote intertidal meadows.

Item ID: 70849
Item Type: Report (Report)
Keywords: seagrass, Torres Strait, monitoring
Copyright Information: © James Cook University, 2017.
Funders: Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA)
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2021 01:03
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 100%
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