A James Cook University professor has called for increased monitoring of mangroves as places like Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria witnesses a large-scale dieback of mangroves.
JCU’s Professor Norm Duke, spokesman for the Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network, said the scale and magnitude of the loss in the Gulf appears “unprecedented and deeply concerning”.
The extent of the damage came to light during an international wetland conference in Darwin this week.
A detailed scientific survey is yet to be done, but Professor Duke said photographs were produced of hundreds of hectares of mangroves dying in two locations on the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria - at Karumba and at Limmen Bight River in the Northern Territory.
“Shoreline stability and fisheries values, among other benefits of mangrove vegetation, are under threat,” Professor Duke said.
Professor Duke said the phenomenon was especially alarming in light of the large-scale coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, as it also appeared to correlate with this year’s extreme warming and climate events in the region.
Preliminary observations were presented at this week's Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network Conference in Darwin.
Professor Duke said understanding of the scale of the mangrove loss is currently hampered by the critical lack of detailed shoreline monitoring, particularly in remote areas.
Conference delegates called for mangrove monitoring efforts to be urgently scaled-up so scientists and managers could establish baseline conditions of national shorelines, and quickly isolate and manage dieback events such as those seen in the Gulf.
Professor Duke said the next step in the investigation would be to conduct a mapping assessment, coupled with field investigations to determine the cause, and begin appropriate management measures.
*Mangroves and coastal wetlands hold 5 times more carbon than tropical forests,” Professor Duke said.
*Australia is home to seven per cent of the world’s mangroves.”