Indigenous rangers track huge mangrove dieback
Indigenous rangers are working to evaluate the extent of the massive and mysterious mangrove dieback in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The dieback, involving more than 7,400 hectares of mangroves stretching 1,000 km west of the Gulf town of Karumba, was discovered a year ago, with scientists describing it as “unprecedented”.
The Queensland-based Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, with the help of TropWATER at James Cook University, is now training 19 rangers to monitor the situation for the eastern side.
The training began on November 12 for Indigenous ranger teams based in both Normanton and Burketown.
The program is being lead by TropWATER scientist, Dr Norm Duke.
“TropWATER is giving its full support towards having well-advised, and science-trained local indigenous rangers across the north of Australia. The rangers are very keen to improve their recording and dissemination of information so the data they collect is relevant to environmental managers in Government, as well as for science researchers,” he said.
Dr Duke said the implications of the dieback are likely to be far reaching.
“Locals are justified in their concern for possible impacts on fisheries, coastal productivity, as well as to shoreline stability and more. Losses of shoreline mangroves exposes those shorelines to severe storms and waves that could erode large sections of coastline.”
This work has been undertaken and funded at the initiative of the CLCAC as Traditional Owners are extremely concerned about this phenomenon. Through this training, CLCAC Rangers will gain the skills and knowledge to continue monitoring and evaluating mangrove shorelines across the southern Queensland Gulf.
Normanton Senior Head Ranger Paul Richardson is keen to see further investigation into this occurrence and opportunities for Indigenous rangers to undertake monitoring.
“Traditional Owners are concerned about the recent dieback event and the potential widespread environmental impacts it may have. For example, dieback has occurred across important habitat for migratory shorebirds” Mr Richardson said.
Dr Duke said the methods used in MangroveWatch monitoring are readily learnt and applied – requiring participants to simply know how to use a camera and a GPS device.
“This is a remote part of the country, so by using such methods in a standard way provides extremely valuable and useful data.”
Dr Duke said it will be a win-win outcome to support Indigenous rangers as guardians of Australia’s shoreline resources - especially in the more remote regions of the country.
Pics of dieback along the Gulf of Carpentaria coast: http://bit.ly/2fNMBqX
Professor Norm Duke, James Cook University TropWATER Centre, Spokesman, Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network
Kate Bellchambers, Media Contact for the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
Those wishing to visit dieback areas in Queensland are requested by Paul Richardson, Normanton Senior Head Ranger, and Terrence Taylor, Burketown-based Gangalidda Garawa Senior Head Ranger to contact them through the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.
For enquires related to Normanton contact the office on (07) 4745 1556 and to Burketown contact the office on (07) 4745 5132. Both are concerned and worried about the likely consequences for marine habitats and animals in their areas. They are glad to have visitors but they want to fully integrate any findings and observations being made.