A New Slant on Noosa River Seagrass Watch in 2017
Many NICA volunteers have learned that monitoring the health of sea-grass beds using the traditional quadrat method is hard and messy work, and it has recently proved impossible for NICA to find funds to keep the traditional survey going. But NICA, in partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast, has recently secured funding from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation to see if modern drone technology might be applied to sea-grass monitoring, to complement or even replace it in some of the more difficult locations. USC hopes to use the project as the basis for an honours or other post-graduate degree.
Why Monitor Seagrass?
Seagrass helps improve river health by buffering river banks against erosion, improving water quality and providing habitats to estuarine fauna. Seagrass is a good indicator for assessing river health, as seagrass beds are sensitive to disturbance and degradation. In the Noosa River, there are two species of seagrassZostera capricorni and Halophila ovalis, the former being the dominant species.
NICA has coordinated the Noosa River Seagrass Monitoring Project since 2005 when a report suggested that periodic mapping of seagrass was a suitable method to determine the health of Noosa River’s ecosystem. Scientists at Seagrass Watch recommended that seagrass resources need to be studied over years rather than months for reliable results. Subsequently funding was obtained from Noosa Council to implement the monitoring project with the help of many volunteers. All data resulting from monitoring the Noosa River seagrass has been shared Seagrass Watch.
Seagrass Watch is an international scientific programme initiated in Australia in 1998, with its headquarters in Cairns. The programme aims to raise awareness on the state of health of nearshore seagrass ecosystems, through supporting community-based assessment and monitoring. Results of the programme also provides an early warning of major coastal environmental changes, from global trends in seagrass distribution and health to localized human impacts. To date, 26 countries have participated in Seagrass Watch.