Seagrasses of Australia

Australia: State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (Estuaries and the Sea), Series 1
H Kirkham
CSIRO Division of Marine Research
Department of the Environment, 1997
ISBN 0 642 25275 0

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About the Technical Paper

This paper describes the nature of seagrasses and explains their importance in the marine environment and their relationships with other marine habitats. The body of the paper is split into three parts: the state of seagrasses in Australia; the pressures that are put on to seagrass habitats by people and nature; and the response that people can make to preserve and restore seagrass meadows. The extent, diversity and abundance of seagrasses are described for separate regions in Australia. There are about 51 000 sq km of seagrass meadow in Australia.

The damage to and loss of seagrass meadows in Australia is recorded, and the way that this decline has occurred is described with examples from various places. People’s activities have caused the loss of about 450 sq km and natural events have caused damage to the extent of 1000 sq km in the past ten years. Any recovery from these pressures is described. An issue is made of the poor recovery of many temperate seagrass meadows and some tropical ones. The vulnerability of seagrass meadows is pointed out and the importance of considering their ability to recover after being damaged is emphasised. The ecological values of seagrass meadows should be estimated on a case by case basis as species differ in their abilities to support faunal communities and provide the other values for which they are respected.

It is apparent throughout this paper that more research needs to be carried out just to be able to record losses. Mapping, inventories of diversity and abundance and background data on seagrasses need to be collected. Further research on ameliorating damage to seagrass meadows and accelerating the restoration processes needs to be properly funded and carried out. The legislation drawn up to protect seagrass habitats, relevant to each State, is listed. Finally, some recommendations as to further research and ways that seagrass meadows can be preserved are presented.