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Queensland Ports Seagrass Monitoring

A long-term seagrass monitoring and assessment program has been established in the majority of Queensland’s commercial ports. The program was developed by the Seagrass Ecology Group at TropWATER in partnership with the various Queensland port authorities.

A strategic long-term assessment and monitoring program for seagrasses in port locations provides managers and regulators with key information on the status of seagrasses within ports, and information that can be used to plan and implement port development and maintenance programs that will have a minimal impact on seagrass. Seagrasses are sensitive to changes in water quality so provide an ideal indicator of overall marine environmental health within the port. The program also provides an ongoing assessment of the most threatened seagrass communities in the State.

Seagrass Qld Seagrass Port assessment 12.8.14_6 images

Monitoring Locations

Location of Queensland Port Seagrass assessment sites
Location of Queensland Port Seagrass assessment sites (red – long term monitoring; blue – baseline mapping only)
The team has established long-term monitoring programs in:
  • Karumba (est. 1994)
  • Weipa (est. 2000)
  • Thursday Island (est. 2002)
  • Cairns (est. 2001)
  • Mourilyan (est. 1994)
  • Townsville (est. 2007)
  • Abbot Point (est. 2005)
  • Hay Point (est. 2004)
  • Gladstone (est. 2002)

Latest reports from the monitoring program can be found


Additional baseline mapping of seagrass and other marine habitats have been collected for the program in the ports of:

  • Mackay  (2001)
  • Skardon River (2002, 2010)
  • Port Musgrave
  • Cape Flattery (1996)
  • Lucinda (2007)


    Program Findings and Uptake

    Seagrass monitoring by helicopterIn many locations monitoring has been going for more than a decade with some for over 20 years providing an invaluable dataset on long term trends and changes. The program not only delivers key information for the management of port activities to minimise impacts on seagrasses but has also resulted in significant advances in the science and knowledge of tropical seagrass ecology. It has been instrumental in developing tools, indicators and thresholds for the protection and management of seagrasses and an understanding of the drivers of tropical seagrass change and feeds into regional assessments of the status of seagrasses. Latest journal publications arising from the program can be found here.



    Port Authorities

    Broader public, science & regulatory

    Demonstrate environmental health of port marine environment

    Status of seagrasses at highest risk

    Assess resilience of seagrasses to maintenance dredging activities

    Assess development applications

    Incorporate into oil spill response plans

    Determine factors influencing seagrass health and natural variability

    Planning and development for new facilities and capital works

    Information for state-wide reporting on seagrass condition and health

    Compliance assessment for capital dredging programs

    Significant advances in the understanding of the ecology of tropical seagrass communities

    Demonstrate Environmental Best Practice for managing port environments

    Basis for research into triggers and thresholds for seagrass management

    Media releases

    Publications in scientific literature

    Community newsletters meetings and consultation

    Presentations and membership of Dredge Technical Advisory Consultative Committees

    Recent publications from the program

    Petus, C., Collier, C., Devlin, M., Rasheed, M., McKenna, S. (2014). Using MODIS data for understanding changes in seagrass meadow health: A case study in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia). Marine Environmental Research 98, 68-85.

    Rasheed, M.A., McKenna, S.A., Carter, A.B., Coles, R.G. (2014). Contrasting recovery of shallow and deep water seagrass communities following climate associated losses in tropical north Queensland, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin , 83, 491-499

    Macreadie, P.I., Schliep, M.T., Rasheed, M.A., Chartrand, K.M., Ralph, P.J. (2014). Molecular indicators of chronic seagrass stress: A new era in the management of seagrass ecosystems? Ecological Indicators 38, 279-81.

    Petrou K, Jimenez-Denness I, Chartrand KM, McCormack C, Rasheed M.A., Ralph PJ. (2013). Seasonal heterogeneity in the impact of air-exposure on the photophysiology of two tropical intertidal seagrass species (Zostera muelleri and Halophila ovalis). Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 482 93-106.

    Unsworth, K.F, Rasheed, M.A., Chartrand, K.M. and Roelofs, A.J. (2012). Solar radiation and tidal exposure as environmental drivers of Enhalus acoroides dominated seagrass meadows. PLoS ONE 7(3): e34133. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034133.

    Grech, A., Chartrand-Miller, K., Erftemeijer, P., Fonseca, M., McKenzie, L., Rasheed, M.A., Taylor, H. and Coles, R. (2012). A comparison of threats, vulnerabilities and management approaches in global seagrass bioregions. Environmental Research Letters 7(2): 024006 (8pp) doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024006.

    Taylor, H.A. and Rasheed, M.A. (2011). Impacts of a fuel oil spill on seagrass meadows in a subtropical port, Gladstone, Australia – The value of long-term marine habitat monitoring in high risk areas. Marine Pollution Bulletin 63: 431-437.

    Coles RG, Grech A, Rasheed, MA, McKenzie LJ, Unsworth RKF, Short F (2010). Seagrass ecology and threats in the tropical Indo-Pacific bioregion Chapter 9 In: Pirog RS (ed) 2010) Seagrass: Ecology, Uses and Threats Editors. 2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc ISBN: 978-1-61761-987-8.

    Rasheed, M.A. and Unsworth, R.K.F. (2010). Long-term climate-associated dynamics of a tropical seagrass meadow: implications for the future. Marine Ecology Progress Series 422: 93-103.

    How is the monitoring program conducted?

    Seaweed in hand_largerFor each location the basic monitoring program design and approach is the same. The basic program involves conducting a baseline description of all seagrasses and then conducting an annual monitoring program of representative seagrass areas or meadows during the peak time for seagrass distribution and abundance.  However, the program is flexible enough that depending on the port and the issues that need to be addressed, additional information and sampling is performed at some sites and times. The frequency of sampling and the addition of extra parameters to the monitoring program occur in response to planned developments or expansions in the port or where seagrass condition has deteriorated and is of concern. This ability to scale up the program is one of the keys to its success.

    Assessing seagrass habitat from a helicopter

    The key variables used in the basic program to measure seagrass change are:

    1. Area of seagrass meadows
    2. Above-ground biomass (density) of seagrass
    3. Species composition changes


      Key research scientists

      Dr Michael Rasheed
      , Skye McKenna, Catherine Bryant, Katie Chartrand, Dr Jessie Jarvis, Dr Paul York, Alexandra Carter, Jaclyn Davies, Dr Robert Coles

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