Underwater grass meadows are being revitalised in one of the South West’s most iconic estuaries

Craig DuncanHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Rachel Allan and Steve Pursell.
Camera IconRachel Allan and Steve Pursell. Credit: Craig Duncan

In the depths of the Leschenault estuary, swaying in the gentle current, vast gardens of grasses cover the floor playing a vital role in the health of the estuary.

Thanks to a new community project by the Leschenault Catchment Council and Ozfish Australia, these hidden pastures are being revitalised across the waterway.

The program is called Seagrass for Swimmers, part of the LCC’s Estuary Connect program, where seeds collected from fruits of seagrasses are spread around the estuary in order to improve the habitat for the animals which rely on these fields to survive.

In past decades rapid changes in the environment killed a substantial portion of the seagrass which carpeted the estuary’s banks.

Halophila, a smaller species of seagrass known commonly as paddleweed.
Camera IconHalophila, a smaller species of seagrass known commonly as paddleweed. Credit: Ozfish Australia

LCC community engagement officer Rachel Allan said the seagrasses played an important role in the ecosystem, storing carbon from the atmosphere and acting as habitat for animals.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of human pressure on out estuaries, such as nutrient run-off,” she said.

“Seagrass is actually a good buffer for some of those effects.”

Ozfish program manager Steve Pursell said the population of blue swimmer crabs had faced issues in recent years with many crustaceans afflicted with soft shell disease.

“The estuary here is renowned as a crab fishery, you see people out there with buckets and scoop nets every day,” he said.

“But, there have been a few issues with the swimmer crabs population because of soft shell disease.

“I think with a better, healthier habitat, we can reduce things like that.”

Samples collected for the study were taken to Manea College where students helped record the amount of leaves, branches, flowers, fruit and seeds present on the grasses.

Students from Manea College helping process samples of seagrass.
Camera IconStudents from Manea College helping process samples of seagrass. Credit: Ozfish Australia

The information gathered from these studies helped direct the next stage of the project, installing trail plots for seagrass planting within the estuary.

The Leschenault Catchment Council and OzFish Australia will be hosting a community information session on March 25.

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