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Issues for seagrass conservation management in Queensland

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Lee Long, W. J., Coles, R.G. and McKenzie, L.J. (1999) Issues for seagrass conservation management in Queensland. Pacific Conservation Biology, 5 (4). pp. 321-328. ISSN 1038-2097

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/PC000321


Coastal, reef-associated and deepwater (> 15 m) seagrass habitats form a large and ecologically important community on the Queensland continental shelf. Broad-scale resource inventories of coastal seagrasses were completed in the 1980s and were used in marine park and fisheries zoning to protect some seagrasses. At least eleven of the fifteen known species in the region reach their latitudinal limits of distribution in Queensland and at least two Halophila species may be endemic to Queensland or northeastern Australia. The importance of seagrasses to Dugongs Dugong dugon, Green Turtles Chelonia mydas and commercially valuable prawn fisheries, will continue to strongly influence directions in seagrass research and conservation management in Queensland. Widespread loss of seagrasses following natural cyclone and flood events in some locations has had serious consequences to regional populations of Dugong. However, the impacts to Queensland fisheries are little studied. Agricultural land use practices may exacerbate the effects of natural catastrophic events, but the long-term impacts of nutrients, pesticides and sediment loads on Queensland seagrasses are also unknown. Most areas studied are nutrient limited and human impacts on seagrasses in Queensland are low to moderate, and could include increases in habitat since modern settlement. Most impacts are in southern, populated localities where shelter and water conditions ideal for productive seagrass habitat are often targets for port development, and are at the downstream end of heavily modified catchments. For Queensland to avoid losses experienced by other states, incremental increases in impacts associated with population and development pressure must be managed. Seagrass areas receive priority consideration in oil spill management within the Great Barrier Reef and coastal ports. Present fisheries legislation for marine plant protection, marine parks and area closures to trawl fishing help protect inshore seagrass prawn nursery and Dugong feeding habitat, but seagrasses in deep water do not yet receive any special zoning protection. Efficacy of the various Local, State and Commonwealth Acts and planning programmes for seagrass conservation is limited by the expanse and remoteness of Queensland's northern coast, but is improving through broad-based education programmes. Institutional support is sought to enable community groups to augment limited research and monitoring programmes with local "habitat watch" programmes. Research is helping to describe the responses of seagrass to natural and human impacts and to determine acceptable levels of changes in seagrass meadows and water quality conditions that may cause those changes. The management of loss and regeneration of sea grass is benefiting from new information collected on life histories and mechanisms of natural recovery in Queensland species. Maintenance of Queensland's seagrasses systems will depend on improved community awareness, regional and long-term planning and active changes in coastal land use to contain overall downstream impacts and stresses.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery conservation
Live Archive:05 Jan 2024 02:32
Last Modified:05 Jan 2024 02:32

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