Sowing new solutions for seagrass

This World Seagrass Day, seagrass scientists from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (the department) are not only celebrating successful Healthy Estuaries WA summer seagrass surveys in three estuaries, but also sowing the seeds of a new collaboration.

‘Seagrass for Swimmers’ is a new initiative between the department, OzFish Unlimited, Leschenault Catchment Council and researchers from the University of Western Australia and is funded by Leschenault Catchment Council’s Leschenault Estuary Connect program. The initiative assesses the potential for meadows in Leschenault Estuary to provide seeds for restoration of seagrass species Halophila ovalis.

Dr Kieryn Kilminster with Manea Senior College students

Dr Kieryn Kilminster, who leads the seagrass science team at the department, said that seagrass meadows are an important part of estuarine ecosystems, providing habitat and food for animals, contributing to good water quality, storing carbon and releasing oxygen.    

“Halophila ovalis is one of the key seagrass species in our estuaries in south-west Western Australia. Seagrasses are flowering plants, so seeds have been collected during the summer flowering season to be studied and assessed,” she said.

“The aim of the initiative is to explore whether these seeds can be used to restore seagrass meadows in the Leschenault Estuary. Increasing the seagrass cover would improve habitat for many estuarine species including Blue Swimmer Crabs.”

“Major loss of seagrass occurred in the Leschenault Estuary about a decade ago, and recovery has been slow, however, this new initiative has the potential to have lasting positive effects on the health of the estuary.”

“While there have been successful seagrass restoration attempts with other species in other areas, they have rarely been focused on the types of seagrasses we find in our estuaries,” she added.

Before the team commenced collecting the seeds from Leschenault Estuary, they were welcomed to Country by Traditional Owner Troy Bennell from Ngalang Wongi Aboriginal Cultural Tours.

The team recruited the help of students from Manea Senior College in Bunbury to assist with processing the collected seeds. This provided an opportunity for students to learn more about the importance of seagrass and to be part of this exciting project.

This summer the team have also completed seagrass monitoring surveys in the Leschenault Estuary, Hardy Inlet, and Wilson Inlet. See more information on these results.

A Blue Swimmer Crab amongst Halophila ovalis seagrass in the Leschenault Estuary.

Healthy Estuaries WA is a State Government program that aims to improve the health of our South West estuaries.

OzFish are supported in the ‘Seagrass for Swimmers’ project with funding through the Leschenault Catchment Council’s Leschenault Estuary Connect program, which is supported by Lotterywest and the Water Corporation.