Gladstone research a highlight of World Seagrass Day

01 March 2022

Gladstone is a focal point of World Seagrass Day celebrations on 1 March' with the community' researchers and port managers taking to the harbour to conduct research activities.

Seagrass expert and CQUniversity's Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) director Associate Professor Emma Jackson said the global initiative was being led by the World Seagrass Association to raise awareness of the importance of seagrass restoration for marine health' carbon sequestration and species protection.

Assoc Prof Jackson said seagrass meadows provide valuable nursery habitat to over a fifth of the world's largest 25 fisheries' including Australia's iconic dugongs which can consume up to 40kg of seagrass each day.

"Our seagrass team here at CMERC has been working with the community' Indigenous custodians from the Gidarjil Development Corporation' the Gladstone Ports Corporation and environmental groups including the Great Barrier Reef Foundation' Fitzroy Basin Association and Burnett Mary Regional Group'" she said.

"Our work is aimed at both improving our understanding of this vital marine plant' as well as developing new ways of restoring seagrass meadows with materials from CMERC's seagrass nurseries."

CMERC was established by CQUniversity in 2019 to work with coastal industries and communities to develop practical and sustainable solutions for coastal and marine environments' and a core program is seagrass restoration research.

Assoc Prof Jackson said that globally seagrass meadows play an important role in coastal protection' trapping sediment' decreasing wave energy and stabilising coastlines.

"They are also important carbon sinks' globally storing as much as 19.9 Petagrams of organic carbon – that's an equivalent weight to 20 million oil tankers – so it's fantastic to see the way the Gladstone community is supporting our local efforts by participating in seagrass flower collection and seed propagation activities'" she said.

Headquartered on the shoreline of the Gladstone marina' CMERC is the only coastal and marine research facility based in Central Queensland and is growing world-class research equipment and laboratories with access to cutting-edge analytical capabilities.

"Seagrasses tend to grow in sheltered parts of the coast and estuaries. Unfortunately' this tends to be the places where humans develop towns and cities' build ports' and dispose of wastes either deliberately or accidentally'" Assoc Prof Jackson said.

"Unlike seagrass in temperate regions' seagrasses in tropical and sub tropical Queensland are very dynamic and can come and go depending on the conditions.

"This makes restoration difficult since it is hard to detect where seagrass might be able to recover naturally versus where it needs a helping hand. This is why it's so important that our community and industry groups continue to get behind our activities here in Gladstone."

This World Seagrass Day coincides with a good low tide so our teams are out collecting plants for propagation in the nursery and taking samples to analyse net carbon storage of the meadows.

CMERC seagrass research activities also include in situ and mesocosm-based trials to assess the triggers for flowering' how different populations adapt to the environment and some novel techniques for collecting storing and dispersing seeds. These link with volunteer and community groups who participate in flower collection and seed planting activities' drawing together people aged from five to 75 in the project.