In The News
Restoring seagrass in Shark Bay
Off the coast of Australia’s north-west lies one of the largest known plants on earth – seagrass.
But the rich seagrass meadows of the World Heritage Listed site of Shark Bay are under threat, still reeling from a severe heat wave that hit the WA coastline in 2010–11, as well as the constantly changing climate. Fiona Bartholomaeus chats On The Record to Dr John Statton about the important research and restoration work being done.
Shark Bay World Heritage Area benefits from seagrass snaggers debut to rejuvenate habitat
Young Harrison Macdonald smiles with delight as he helps his family carry elongated hessian sacks onto a boat in Shark Bay, Western Australia. "I've got big muscles," he remarks. He is among Shark Bay community members working with Indigenous rangers in a pioneering trial to deploy 250 so-called seagrass snaggers along the ocean floor.
Community rallies to restore damaged Shark Bay seagrass beds
Indigenous rangers, community volunteers and scientists have joined forces to restore climate change damaged seagrass beds in a World Heritage Area off the West Australian coast. Kate Ferguson reports.
Scientists discover ‘biggest plant on Earth’ off Western Australian coast
About 4,500 years ago, a single seed – spawned from two different seagrass species – found itself nestled in a favourable spot somewhere in what is now known as Shark Bay, just off Australia’s west coast.
Knowing Nullaki Festival celebrating the Wilson Inlet
Nullaki is the local Noongar name of the seagrass Ruppia megacarpa. It is also their word for Wilson Inlet and surrounding areas. The Noongar peoples, who are so connected to land over thousands of years, understood the fundamental importance of the slender seagrass that grows in abundance. A stunning biodiversity painting showing Ruppia in flower was created with Golden Hills Steiner School students and Angela Rossen, Artist and biodiversity educator, is on show at the Knowing Nullaki Festival.
Vale Anne Brearley 1949-2022
Dr Anne Brearley passed away with her family beside her on Saturday 12th February after a long fight with illness. Anne was a long time student, research fellow and associate of the Schools of Plant Biology and Biological Sciences, as well as a founding member of the UWA Oceans Institute.
Anne was an expert in molluscs and other invertebrates and did her undergraduate and her PhD in the Department of Botany at UWA in the early 1990s under the supervision of Professor Diana Walker. Her work on seagrass leaf grazing was breakthrough research in our understanding of limnoriid and lynseiid crustaceans grazing on seagrass meristems in southern Australia. Her first postdoctoral appointment was with a program studying the ecological significance of seagrasses and their associated invertebrate communities in Cockburn Sound and Owen Anchorage (1997-1999). She then authored a major book that celebrated the life of Ernest Hodgin titled Swanland: Estuaries and Coastal Lagoons of South-western Australia in 2005. The book is the most complete collection of historical and contemporary understanding of the estuaries we live and enjoy in the Southwest.
Anne’s eye for detail, research integrity and her love for the invertebrates was shared with so many of us. She has been an important friend and collaborator to Gary Kendrick, Di Walker, and Marion Cambridge and her legacy will continue through her graduated students and her writings. Anne will be missed for the sharing and the mentoring she has provided and her willingness to venture underwater to enjoy the wonder and diversity of the waters of the southwestern Australia.
Art, science and culture connect in seagrass-inspired exhibit
Art, science and culture are all coming together in a beautiful series of seagrass-inspired artworks, on display at Aspects Gallery Shop in Kings Park. The artworks by Tiahna Oxenham, Sabrina Dowling Giudici, Nadja Roelofs, and Kelly Osborne are all inspired by marine environments, featuring seagrasses.
‘Black water’: The three Australian sites that are ground zero for climate change
In the summer of 2011, as flooding across Victoria and Queensland killed 35 people and left a $14 billion damage bill, something very different was happening on the other side of the country. Record summer ocean temperatures up to 5C above average represented the worst marine heatwave Western Australia had ever seen.
Funding boost for young marine researchers
Congratulations Maria Jung - one of eight young researchers to receive a major boost to support for doctorate research in marine science. Working across a diverse range of innovative projects in ocean science, the eight PhD students were awarded a total of $92,000 through the 2020 Robson and Robertson Awards Scheme.
A Snapshot of 70 Years of Marine Research in Shark Bay: Ecological, Social and Economic
A new report launched this week by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution brings together the last seven decades of marine research on Gathaagudu, Shark Bay. Gary Kendrick hands the Report over to Malgana Traditional Owners.
Blue carbon, conservation economies & the great seagrass restoration
Gary Kendrick’s great love is the WA coastline and its seagrasses. Gary and colleagues have been at the forefront of seagrass restoration and the blue carbon movement more broadly. And with such a massive extent of coastline featuring globally significant carbon stores, World Heritage Sites, and deep community and cultural knowledge, the potential for WA is enormous.
Steady strides to conserve waterways
With the future of fishing in Australia directly related to the quality of our waterways, one national not-for-profit has put the call out for recreational fishers to help conserve their beloved streams, lakes and estuaries.
Restoring seagrass for snapper
An experiment to restore seagrass in order to attract pink snapper close to shore is proving to be a success. John Statton discusses restoring seagrass in Cockburn Sound with GWN7.
Snapper habitat gets second dose of seagrass seeds
West Australian recreational fishers and divers have worked to restore the lost seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound for the second consecutive year by collecting and spreading seeds to speed the plant’s restoration and improve the habitat for Pink Snapper.
Malgana people add their voice to science priorities for Shark Bay
Generations of Malgana people from Gatharragudu (Shark Bay) came together to start the process of understanding the decades of research that has been carried out in the World Heritage Site and to develop priorities for the future. Matt Fraser got the opportunity to share seagrass research firsthand.
Australia's Great Southern Reef newest 'Hope Spot'
Mission Blue founder Sylvia Earle announces their latest Hope Spot: Australia's Great Southern Reef.
PhD researcher Sahira Bell explains that despite 70% of Australians living within 50km of the GSR, public knowledge of the Reef is scant.
Shark Bay: A World Heritage Site at catastrophic risk
The devastating bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 rightly captured the world’s attention. But what’s less widely known is that another World Heritage-listed marine ecosystem was also devastated by an extreme marine heatwave in Western Australia in 2011. Safeguarding Shark Bay from climate change will require a coordinated research and management effort from government, local industry, academic institutions and local Indigenous groups.
Listen to Matt's interview with The Wire
Momentum builds to save seagrass as it disappears at a fast rate
‘Operation Posidonia’ launched in Port Stephens today. A team led by UNSW and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is asking local communities to help restore endangered Posidonia seagrass meadows by collecting shoots that naturally become detached after large storms. Listen to the radio interview.
'Seeds for Snapper' restoring the seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound
In an Australian first, hundreds of West Australian recreational fishers will be asked to take part in a trial to restore the lost seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound. Cockburn Sound has lost some 80% of its seagrass habitat since the 1960’s, down from 4000ha originally, to 900ha today. OzFish Unlimited is leading this trial, with support from Recfishwest and researchers from the University of Western Australia, along with BCF.
Climate Issue: Losing Earth
The New York Times Magazine dedicated this issue to a single long story, 'Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change', by writer-at-large Nathaniel Rich with amazing photographs and videos by George Steinmetz, about the ten-year period from 1979 to 1989, the decisive decade when humanity settled the science of climate change and came surprisingly close to finding a solution. The world was ready to act. But we failed to do what was necessary to avoid a catastrophe. Rich's story is a gripping narrative that reads like a historical whodunit.
Adapting to ecosystem change in the Shark Bay World Heritage site
Five years after the release of a report into the Shark Bay World Heritage site recommended a coordinated collaborative approach was vital to understand changes in the ecosystem, more than 70 science and industry experts have joined forces to examine the threats and prioritise the research needed to save its status.
Climate change threatens world's biggest seagrass carbon stores
A new study published today in Nature Climate Change by an international team of researchers highlights the devastating effects of a marine heatwave in one of the world’s largest remaining seagrass ecosystems. This collaborative study found the death of seagrasses in the Shark Bay World Heritage Site from a 2010/11 marine heat wave released up to nine million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere over the following three years.
Study finds ways to avoid hidden dangers of accumulated stresses on seagrass
Hundreds of millions of cubic meters of vital seagrass meadows worldwide can potentially be at risk of collapse from accumulated effects of repeated dredging and natural stress - a QUT-led research project examines just what the main risks are in a newly published article in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Seagrass research included in $14.75 million of Federal funding
Researchers at The University of Western Australia have received $14.75 million in funding for 26 projects through the Federal Government’s Australian Research Council. UWA received $9.6 million for 25 Discovery Projects including:
Saving seagrasses from dredging - new research finds solutions
Timing of dredging is the key to helping preserve one of the world’s most productive and important ecosystems - seagrass meadows. The study, published overnight in Nature Communications, was led by QUT researchers in collaboration with seagrass experts at ECU, JCU, and UWA.
Study identifies bottlenecks in early seagrass growth
Seagrass meadows, key nursery and feeding grounds for many kinds of marine life, are being lost worldwide to nutrient pollution, warming waters, and other ills. A new study published today by an international research team reveals bottlenecks in the growth of seagrass from seed to seedling, knowledge useful for improving seed-based restoration efforts.
Vale Professor Arthur McComb
On Sunday 8th October we lost a great champion for Australia’s aquatic environment with the passing of Professor Arthur McComb. Arthur has been instrumental in the growth of aquatic ecosystem science in Australia. The underlying theme of Arthur’s research was to understand the fundamental processes that control plant biomass in aquatic systems and the place of primary producers in the functioning of whole ecosystems. Arthur’s legacy will live on through his writings and his many students.
Are Coral Reefs on Death Row? A masterclass with Charlie Veron
Members of the Kendrick lab were privileged to spend the morning in a Masterclass with Charlie Veron. We covered topics from coral taxonomy, biogeography, ancient mass extinctions and the re-evolution of modern corals to reticulate evolution and climate change. Are they facing another mass extinction? - this time at the hands of rapid ocean warming and acidification, largely driven by our human desire to burn fossil fuels? The mornings topics provided for some lively conversation! Thanks to the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies for sponsoring this event.
OI formally launches the Robson & Robertson Awards
Congratulations to Dr Matt Fraser on being awarded the inaugural Robson & Robertson post-doctoral fellowship. The R&R Award was established to honour the founders of the Oceans Institute and have been made possible by a donation from the Jock Clough Marine Foundation. The R&R Award supports early career researchers in pioneering global research to address ocean challenges in conservation, genetics and aquaculture. Matt's research will focus on developing innovative solutions to improve the conservation and management of our coastal ecosystems. The Award also provided additional funding for 3 of our PhD students Ana Giraldo, Joseph Turner, and Daniel van Hees.
Healing old wounds: restoring Posidonia australis in mooring scars
Efforts to restore seagrass in Port Stephens have been boosted by a significant NSW State government grant. The research team led by Adriana Vergés at UNSW/Sydney Institute of Marine Science will be developing methods to restore endangered Posidonia seagrass meadows through environmentally friendly moorings and seagrass revegetation.
It's official - our new building opens
The Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC) was officially opened today. The centre brings together more than 300 marine scientists across a variety of disciplines who will collaborate to increase knowledge in areas such as biodiversity, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, indigenous engagement, climate change, oceanography, sustainable use of marine resources and the conservation of marine life and ecosystems.
Seagrass Restoration Network: Saving our seagrasses for future generations
A group of Australian and New Zealand marine scientists are building a Seagrass Restoration Network to foster communication between researchers, restoration practitioners, community groups, and government policy makers engaged in marine conservation and restoration activities. A new website was launched this week using funds kindly made available through The Nature Conservancy and Deakin University. This new initiative is being led by prominent scientists, Deakin University’s Dr Craig Sherman and Professor Gary Kendrick from The University of Western Australia.
Discover our local coastal biodiversity
Join Scientists from the School of Botanical Sciences (UWA) to make a complete survey of the wonderful plants and animals that live on our Perth beaches and near shore marine environment. Bring the family and spend the morning discovering and documenting living things in their coastal environment.
Read about this successful event.
Western Australian Young Achiever Awards - 2017 finalists announced
Congratulations to Matthew Fraser who was recently named as a finalist for the Western Australian Young Achiever Awards in the Environment and Sustainability category. Matthew created the Cottesloe Ecosystem Research Project where undergraduate students research one component of the Cottesloe Reef ecosystem - plants, invertebrates, or fish. They add data to a pre-existing long term dataset to report on changes, providing valuable monitoring. The winners will be announced at the Awards Gala Presentation Dinner this Friday.
Marbà et al. (2015) selected for Journal of Ecology's new virtual issue
The Journal of Ecology have announced the creation of a new subject category: Global Change Ecology. To mark the occasion, they have prepared a special virtual issue titled 'Plants in a changing world: global change and plant ecology'. The virtual issue consists of 21 of the finest research published on global change over the last few years, including Marbà et al. (2015) 'Impact of seagrass loss and subsequent revegetation on carbon sequestration and stocks.'
WAMSI: Avoiding or reducing dredging during sensitive periods
The Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) has just published an article which examines whether dredging operations suspended during generic windows of environmental sensitivity could reduce the impacts on marine life has found the marine invertebrates, seagrasses and macroalgae too diverse to be covered by a one-size-fits-all approach.
Climate-driven regime shift of a temperate marine ecosystem
Ecosystems over time have endured much disturbance, yet they tend to remain intact, a characteristic we call resilience. Though many systems have been lost and destroyed, for systems that remain physically intact, there is debate as to whether changing temperatures will result in shifts or collapses. Wernberg et al. show that extreme warming of a temperate kelp forest off Australia resulted not only in its collapse, but also in a shift in community composition that brought about an increase in herbivorous tropical fishes that prevent the reestablishment of kelp. Thus, many systems may not be resilient to the rapid climate change that we face.
Published: Identifying knowledge gaps in seagrass research and management: An Australian perspective
Gary, Marion, and Liz attended a Seagrass Workshop in July 2015, hosted by Deakin University's Centre for Integrative Ecology. The workshop was held as part of the Australian Marine Sciences Association conference and included over 50 seagrass experts and student researchers. The aim was to update and redefine strategic priorities in Australian seagrass research. Participants identified 40 research questions across 10 fields as priorities. A multidisciplinary approach will be needed to facilitate greater understanding of the complex interactions among seagrasses and their environment.
New generation of scientists
CSIRO has teamed up with BHP Billiton Petroleum and the University of Western Australia to welcome a fresh faced trio of scientists. The new PhD students will be conducting research to protect and conserve one of Australia’s most unique landscapes: the Ningaloo Reef.
What happens when (plant) sex fails?
Many plant species reproduce using sexual and asexual methods – and this can vary depending on environmental and genetic conditions. A large amount of energy goes into producing flowers and seeds for sexual reproduction, while vegetative growth through continuous expansion of the original plant(s) requires much less energy. Sexual reproduction produces new combinations of genes which may be advantageous in changing environments. Yet vegetative growth may also be seen as advantageous through the persistence of the same locally adapted genetic individuals.
Seagrass planting strategy needed to remove fast food option
Efforts to restore Shark Bay’s seagrass meadows by transplanting Posidonia australis at the edge of existing meadows are being hampered because resident fish are using the new seagrass as fast food.
Summer scholarships for young talent
Five young West Australian scientists are spending their summer working alongside researchers at Kings Park and Botanic Garden as part of the Kings Park scholarship program. One of this years successful scholars is Henry Lambert, a UWA zoology and marine science double major, who will be researching alongside Elizabeth Sinclair, learning about the genetics of seagrass restoration.
Why are Australia’s marine parks being reviewed so soon after they were signed off?
The current government review of Australia’s proposed network of marine parks, called the Commonwealth Marine Reserves (CMRs), seems rather premature. After all, the management plans were approved only in March 2013 and as yet only the southeast region is being actively managed.
Tropical seagrass examined for light pressures
Research into seagrass susceptibility to dredging activities has revealed exactly how fragile some of the tropical marine plants species are when faced with a decreased level of light.
Dead whales are expensive – whose job is it to clear them up?
A whale carcass can be a big headache – just ask the locals at Broulee Beach in southern New South Wales, where a dead whale washed back ashore last month despite already having been towed out to sea just after Christmas.