For 20 years James Cook University (JCU) scientists have measured marine health through the monitoring of seagrass at North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) ports guiding port development and resulting in valuable long term understanding of marine habitats along the Queensland coast.
Dr Michael Rasheed, Principal Research Scientist from the JCU Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) leads the ports seagrass program.
Dr Rasheed said the Queensland ports seagrass program has provided an advanced knowledge of seagrass and is one of the longest running and leading seagrass monitoring programs in Australia.
“Seagrass is a critical marine coastal habitat and a recognised indicator of marine environmental health.
“The long-term assessment, coupled with ongoing research on recovery and the requirements for seagrass growth, has equipped JCU’s TropWATER researchers with confidence to provide advice on how to protect seagrass.
“Seagrasses play a critical role in the marine ecosystem, and our aim is to provide information that can be incorporated into port management plans and help protect the marine environment of the port,” he said.
“My team at TropWATER recognise that there are many benefits for scientists to collaborate with industry to get the best outcome for marine environments along the Queensland coastline. Without the strategic investment in monitoring within ports much of what we now understand about seagrasses in Queensland would not have been possible and we would not be in the position we are now to ensure their effective management and protection.”
Dr Rasheed describes seagrass as the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for ports. “Seagrass is extremely sensitive and will respond to all elements of water quality and therefore if seagrass is healthy, it’s a good indicator the overall marine environment is healthy.”
NQBP’s CEO, Steve Lewis said: “NQBP is proud that its long-term seagrass monitoring program is contributing to the scientific knowledge of seagrass ecology. On many occasions the monitoring has guided port planning and operations to ensure the healthy port environments that exist today.”
“NQBP is committed to sustainable ports and is confident that ongoing seagrass monitoring within the ports will continue to assist with management of the marine environment.”