A total of $1.2 million in Victorian Government grants will enable the Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation to partner with the Bunurong Land Council and other regional stakeholders in making the Reserve’s marine environment a major centre for blue carbon.
The State has provided two separate grants of $700,000 from the Department of Energy Environment and Climate Action to the Biosphere Foundation and $500,000 from the department’s Bushbank program to the Bunurong Land Council to undertake ecosystem conservation and management projects that will optimise the natural carbon storage capacity of Western Port’s extensive mangrove, saltmarsh and seagrass areas. The funding was announced by Victoria’s Minister for Environment, Ingrid Stitt (press release).
Western Port Biosphere Foundation’s CEO, Mel Barker, said the Victorian Government’s welcome support would build on more than 60,000-year knowledge of Traditional Custodians of Country and the scientific research undertaken by Deakin University’s world-class Blue Carbon Lab in 2022, which was funded through the Biosphere Foundation by seven member councils from the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA).
“Areas of the marine ecosystems we have in Western Port are central to our climate action strategy for the Biosphere Reserve. They can capture carbon at a rate per square metre which is between 30 and 50 times that of terrestrial forest” she said.
“But the benefits for Western Port extend beyond climate. Preserving these ecosystems is invaluable for maintaining biodiversity, the thousands of trans-continental bird migrations that happen annually and the protection of the internationally declared Ramsar wetlands at the heart of the Reserve.”
She noted that wins for the environment would directly benefit the community by maintaining healthy fisheries, tourism and increased resilience from future sea level rises due to climate.
Ms Barker said the Biosphere Foundation would be inviting participation from local councils, community members and local service providers to amplify the outcomes from the Victorian Government’s investment, which would focus on developing a blue carbon roadmap for Western Port, including conducting pilot programs and on-ground monitoring and reporting.
“This presents a fantastic opportunity and foundation on which to build a total community effort and commitment to ensuring Western Port is one of Australia’s most attractive places to live, work and play for future generations,” she said.
The Bunurong Land Council component will principally focus on blue carbon training for its specialist Environment Team, with support from the Biosphere Foundation’s science and environmental management experts. It will also foster First Nations community engagement and awareness of caring for ecosystems fundamental to achieving Western Port’s blue carbon potential.
Ms Barker said a significant proportion of the grants had already been received so work could commence immediately. The Biosphere Foundation grant was for work to be conducted over two years, while the Bunurong Land Council grant extended over four.
“We could not have reached this stage without the financial support provided by the seven councils which contributed to the Blue Carbon Lab’s scientific research and report in 2022, or other enabling donations of money and resources from the community. We thank them all, as this was critical to making the case for the Victorian Government’s investment in Western Port,” she said.
Councils that contributed included Bass Coast, Bayside, Frankston, Cardinia, Casey, Kingston and Mornington Peninsula.
Professor Peter Macreadie, founder and director of the Blue Carbon Lab adds “Blue Carbon Lab’s science is designed to achieve real-world impact, so it is a great honour to see our research translating into on-ground action and hopefully further policy change. We congratulate the Western Port Biosphere Foundation for marrying together Traditional Owner knowledge and Western science in its approach to sustainably managing and enhancing its blue carbon assets.”