Farm­ers help­ing reef pro­tec­tion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

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.”

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