Seagrass (wirriya jalyanu): giving life to sea country of Shark Bay (Gathaagudu) - Fact sheet 2021
Researchers at The University of Western Australia (UWA) are working with the Malgana Aboriginal Corporation and rangers to assist the natural recovery of seagrasses affected by an extreme marine heatwave at Shark Bay. The widespread loss of seagrass resulting from the 2010/2011 marine heatwave caused declines in many species, including those of cultural significance. These include green sea turtles (buyungurra), dugong (wuthuga), shags (wanamalu) and bottlenose dolphins (irrabuga). Malgana Rangers and scientists have participated in four training workshops to develop and trial simple, cost-effective methods to assist the recovery of seagrass. The methods use adult plants, seeds and seedlings, depending on the species. Measuring the success of a restoration project takes time. However, seaweeds and algae are starting to grow on seagrass transplants, tropical seagrasses are colonising the surrounding bare sand, and fish and invertebrates are starting to use the new habitat.
Baseline genomic data collection and assisting natural recovery of seagrass meadows
The goal of NESP Project E6 is to work alongside the Malgana Traditional Owners to assist recovery of the dominant seagrasses, Amphibolis antarctica and Posidonia australis following the 2011 marine heat wave. Therefore, this project has been developed and implemented with consultation and collaboration between UWA scientists and the Malgana people. Collectively, we have established strong lines of communication and coordinated processes for conducting field work, organising and implementing workshops, engaging in ecological and restoration training exercises and practice, as well as brainstorming and organising upcoming community events, including the seagrass festival to be held in April 2021 in Denham, Shark Bay.
Our project successfully (i) developed baseline restoration genetic diversity and connectivity data of the two impacted seagrasses which was used to select plants and sites for restoration, and (ii) by incorporating the baseline genetic information, assisted the natural recovery of seagrass meadows through the collection of reproductive and vegetative propagules for on-ground restoration activities within selected sites.