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Planning for the future of Blue Carbon ecosystems across the Western Port region

December 18, 2023

In a significant stride toward environmental preservation and climate action, the Western Port Biosphere Foundation received $700,000 in funding from the Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Action for Blue Carbon ecosystem preservation. An additional $500,000 is allocated for a collaborative project with the Bunurong Land Council and the Bushbank Team to protect coastal wetlands.

With an impressive 24% of Victoria’s coastal wetlands situated within the Western Port UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, this region holds immense potential in the fight against climate change. Its wealth of carbon-absorbing marine habitats, including mangroves, tidal and salt marshes, and seagrasses, forms the foundation of highly productive coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems play a pivotal role in storing carbon within plants and sediments, positioning them as integral components of nature-based solutions to climate change.

Building on the success of the Blue Carbon Opportunities mapping project undertaken by the Foundation in collaboration with the Blue Carbon Lab in 2022/23. The project aims to forge stronger connections with stakeholders around Western Port, design comprehensive management plans for the protection and restoration of blue carbon sites and execute on-ground initiatives and monitoring efforts across the bay.

All aboard- Ben Cleveland and attendees

Utilising historical data and spatial mapping, the Blue Carbon Lab mapping project determined the distribution of blue carbon habitats across Western Port, tracking changes and losses over time due to human impact. A crucial milestone in the ongoing project was the second Stakeholder Working Group meeting held on November 23rd during the Tidemaster Cruise in Tooradin. The event brought together stakeholders and blue carbon experts from around Western Port, providing an opportunity to visit the coastline of French Island and explore the seagrass meadows of Western Port.

Andy from OzFish and underwater imagery from the UROV

Key to the success of this groundbreaking initiative is the collaborative effort between stakeholders and experts across Western Port. By working collectively, the aim is to identify the most valuable sites for management plans, on-ground works, and monitoring. The recent cruise featured updates from the Blue Carbon Lab, Seagrass Partnership (Ian Stevenson and Hugh Kirkman) and insights from Ben Cleveland of Cardium Marine along with Adrian Flynn of Fathom Pacific. Attendees were treated to Andy Foudoulis of OzFish, who used an underwater remotely operated vehicle (UROV) to explore the seagrass meadows of Western Port.

Dr Hugh Kirkman of Seagrass Partnership

The Western Port Biosphere Foundation’s commitment to environmental stewardship and climate resilience shines through this project, marking a crucial step toward the sustainable protection of blue carbon ecosystems. As these efforts unfold, the Western Port region stands as a beacon of collaborative environmental action, showcasing the power of partnership in tackling climate change.

 

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