Moreton Bay still has extensive areas of seagrass associated with the cleaner waters of the western region of the bay where they provide food and habitat for dugongs and sea turtles as well as provide nursery areas for many species of fish and invertebrates.
Like mangroves, seagrasses are a group of plant species related by their function and location rather than taxonomy. Located in shallow and sheltered coastal waters they are excellent at stabilising sediments, recycling nutrients, storing carbon and providing habitats for many of our commercial fishery species. Seagrass, like saltmarsh and mangroves are very efficient at capturing carbon. In fact these wetland habitats can sequester and bury carbon up to 66 times the rate of land-based ecosystems.
Seagrass requires clear water in order to thrive so they are impacted by any terrestrial activities that impact on water quality. Human activities have had the greatest impact on these meadows through excessive nutrients and pollutants entering via stormwater and upstream farming practices as well as coastal development, dredging and shipping. Managing run off through the maintenance of wetland filtering systems such as our wetland areas is one key to improving water quality entering our estuaries.
The work being carried out by REF and other community organisations is an attempt to manage water quality through rehabilitating our remaining coastal wetland areas. Wouldn’t it be good if we could see the pastures of seagrass return to Hays Inlet and Deception Bay? It would mean that the coastal system of Melaleuca wetlands, saltmarsh, mangroves and seagrass are at their productive best, providing habitats for some of our most iconic wildlife as well as underpinning the fisheries associated with Moreton Bay.
Further Reading: McKenzie, L. (2014) Australian pastures of the sea. Wildlife Magazine 51 (1) 18-21
Seagrass Watch is a long term monitoring program. You can learn more at http://wildlife.org.au/seagrasswatch/