Farmers helping reef protection
THE efforts of local farmers to reduce the impact of run-off and sediment and implement measures to lessen the risk to seagrass habitats has been presented to the world’s coral reef experts.
Dr Rob Coles told delegates about his work with local farmers to educate them on better farming practices to protect seagrass beds.
“The Great Barrier Reef has a lot of seagrass, about 33,000sq km, and it’s a really important habitat that complements coral reefs,” he said.
“Seagrass supports the reef and fish in the area, provides food for dugong and turtle populations and helps to protect the reef by absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing ocean acidification.
“We’ve been asked to look at seagrasses under threat and advise on changes that need to be made to protect them and have been doing quite a lot of work monitoring seagrass in terms of nutrients and sediments from the land.”
The project is part of the wellknown Reef Rescue program, which has received funding to 2014 and the next step will be collecting new data after recent cyclones and flooding washed high levels of sediment into the ocean.
“The whole reef isn’t as bad as that data is showing,” Dr Coles said.
“Part of the Reef Rescue focus is not only on the reef and seagrass but to go back to farmers and talk about changes and why we are asking them to do it.
“Telling people what they can and can’t do doesn’t work, but if you have good knowledge and science then people will listen and most farmers are normally happy to see what they can do.”