Thorneside saltmarshes found to be important fish habitat

DOWN AND DIRTY: Citizen scientists collate information about the Thorneside saltmarshes.
DOWN AND DIRTY: Citizen scientists collate information about the Thorneside saltmarshes.

A SURVEY has found what many people may have suspected – the Thorneside saltmarshes are an extremely important fish habitat.

The survey was the first time that the so-called “super habitat’’ was put under the microscope with the help of citizen sicentists.

The survey was part of the annual ReefBlitz event led by MangroveWatch scientist Jock Mackenzie.

He said the aim was to collect as much information as possible about this often overlooked coastal habitat which was listed federally as an endangered ecosystem.

“Saltmarsh is an essential part of a healthy Moreton Bay, yet it’s something we really don’t know enough about,” Mr Mackenzie said. “Eighty percent of the seafood from Moreton Bay – including bream, prawns and mud Crabs – depends on saltmarsh.

“Saltmarsh acts as a vital ecosystem filter that keeps the waters of Moreton Bay clean by trapping mud and urban runoff and therefore helps to protect corals, seagrass and turtle and dugong habitats.

“However, saltmarsh habitat is under threat from rising sea levels which has led to subtropical saltmarsh recently being listed as a federally endangered ecosystem.’’

Mr Mackenzie said that in areas like Redlands saltmarshes had nowhere to go as seas rose right next to roads, housing and pathways.

Saltmarsh is comprised of the small plants and (seemingly bare) mud patches behind mangroves. It traps urban run-off.

Saltmarsh is comprised of the small plants and (seemingly bare) mud patches behind mangroves. It traps urban run-off.

Human impacts like increased urban runoff, pollution and driving cars on saltmarsh also impacted on saltmarshes.

“To ensure saltmarsh keeps putting fish on our plates and cleaning the waters of Moreton Bay, it’s essential that the saltmarsh remains healthy and we do what we can to reduce our human impact,” he said.

Saltmarshes help filter urban run-off.

Saltmarshes help filter urban run-off.

Groups identified a number of key areas for action, including ongoing impacts from people driving on saltmarsh, rubbish, urban runoff and drainage.

“When I came here 10 years ago, the place was in poor condition,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“But now with some positive action from Redland City Council, the area is looking much healthier, with measures such as installing bollards to stop vehicle access having a positive effect. However, there’s still more work to be done.”

Amateur scientists trudging on.

Amateur scientists trudging on.

The saltmarsh event has inspired members of two local Bushcare groups to start regular monitoring and assessment of the Thorneside saltmarsh. This will help monitor habitat recovery.

Environment Minister Steven Miles said ReefBlitz kicked-off with a dive and reef check at North Stradbroke Island.

“It’s critical we start teaching our younger generations how they can protect our waterways and their local environment,” Dr Miles said.

ReefBlitz is an initiative of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with support from the Queensland Government, Boeing, Orica, Qantas and event partner the Great Barrier Reef Citizen Science Alliance.