University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
Exploring the distribution and ecological value of seagrass in tayaritja (Furneaux Group of Islands), Tasmania
Seagrass meadows are a dominant marine ecosystem of tayaritja (the Furneaux Group of Islands) off north-eastern Tasmania. The Posidonia and Amphibiolis meadows here are potentially some of the largest and deepest in temperate Australia.
Seagrass provides habitat for many fish species, and for the maireener shells used by pakana people for traditional necklace making. In recent years shell collectors on the islands have reported a decrease in the number of shells available for harvest.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) is working to establish a Sea Country Indigenous Protected Area in this culturally significant region, which includes two Ramsar sites (East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons and Logan Lagoon on Flinders Island).
Working in partnership with the TAC, this Hub project will map the extent, composition, population structure and blue carbon value of tayaritja seagrass beds and establish knowledge and methods to support seagrass monitoring and management.
Existing data will be collated and reviewed to construct a depth map and initial guide to seagrass habitat in the region. High resolution satellite remote sensing will be used to map seagrass beds around tayaritja, including in the intertidal lagoons of the Flinders Island Logan Lagoon Ramsar site. The satellite observations will be validated in Summer 2024 during field research using video surveys and rhizome coring.
Maps showing seagrass extent, spatial variability and species composition will be produced for areas of suitable water depth and clarity. All spatial data will be made available on Seamap Australia, with habitat mapped according to Seamap Australia National Benthic Habitat Classification Scheme.
The seagrass samples will be examined to better understand their ecology in terms of blue carbon storage, genetic connectivity and diversity, population distributions, and the relative importance of sexual and asexual reproduction. In shallow waters, (less than 5 m depths), relationships will be explored between different seagrass species (Posidonia, Amphibolis, Hetreozostera and Zostera) and animal and microbial communities.
Consistent, standards-based approaches will be developed for collecting, analysing, managing, and reporting environmental data. Training and guidance provided to the TAC land and sea management team and pakana rangers, together with traditional knowledge will contribute to the development of cost-effective monitoring approaches.
This project will significantly improve knowledge of the extent, distribution and ecology of tayaritja seagrass meadows, including seagrass resilience and viability, and potential areas for blue carbon projects.
The new methods and understanding will advance the capacity for Indigenous-led management of the proposed tayaritja Sea Country Indigenous Protected Area and the East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons and Logan Lagoon Ramsar sites.
Australia will be better placed to meet obligations and reporting under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO.
This project will focus on the visible marine ecosystems of tayaritja (Furneaux group of Islands) in the north-eastern waters off Tasmania. Field research will include selected sites to the west of Flinders Island and the Ramsar sites of Logan Lagoon. The analytical research will be conducted at the host institutions in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland.