Torres Strait Seagrass
We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians on whose land and sea areas seagrass monitoring takes place. Please be advised that this communication may contain images of persons who have died and we offer our apologies for any distress caused if this occurs
Torres Strait contains some of the most extensive seagrass meadows of northern Australia. These meadows provide critical habitat and food for the largest dugong population in the world, a globally significant population of green turtles, plus fish, prawns, beche de mer (sea cucumber), and tropical rock lobster. Seagrasses also help maintain coastal water quality and clarity.
Torres Strait Island communities rely on coastal marine habitats for subsistence, with strong cultural and spiritual links to these environments. The loss of seagrass habitat in Torres Strait would have detrimental effects on the species reliant on seagrass and local island communities. For example, substantial seagrass diebacks (up to 60%) documented twice in central Torres Strait were linked to dramatic increases in local dugong mortality. Threats to seagrass in the region include shipping-related oil spills and structural habitat damage, water quality in northern Torres Strait in areas close to Papua New Guinea, climate change, and seagrass diebacks. Torres Strait seagrass distribution, density and species composition also varies significantly seasonally and annually, with change largely driven by seasonal and environmental conditions.
The Torres Strait Seagrass Monitoring Program (TSSMP) incorporates four seagrass monitoring programs that occur in Torres Strait:
- Torres Strait Seagrass Observers Program – Intertidal monitoring of transect sites at home reefs by Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Land and Sea Management Unit (LSMU) Rangers, funded by TSRA.
- Ranger Subtidal Monitoring Program – Monitoring blocks of subtidal meadows by TSRA LSMU Rangers, funded by TSRA.
- Reef-top Monitoring Program – Aerial survey of sites across entire reef-top meadows, funded by TSRA.
- Queensland Ports Seagrass Monitoring Program – Meadow-scale monitoring of Thursday Island and adjacent reefs,funded by Ports North.
To read more about each project, click ‘Projects’ above.
The individual programs that make up TSSMP differ in the spatial and temporal scale and coverage of monitoring and the seagrass condition indicators assessed. The program collectively monitors seagrass condition at 12 intertidal transect sites, 12 intertidal and subtidal whole-meadows, and three subtidal meadow blocks.
Monitoring incorporates eleven seagrass species from three families, and occurs within four of the five traditional island clusters – Western, Central, Eastern and Inner. No monitoring currently occurs in the Top Western Cluster, which includes Boigu, Dauan, and Saibai Islands.
The Torres Strait Seagrass Observers Program combines education and training that develops skills and proficiency in field-based intertidal seagrass monitoring. It provides Torres Strait Islanders with the necessary tools to be involved in the management of their sea areas.
The Torres Strait Seagrass Report Card provides an annual assessment of seagrass condition at each monitoring location.