Despite the cold weather, winter is the perfect time to combat the spread of environmental weeds and revegetate residential gardens with beautiful (native-animal-attracting) indigenous species.
Environmental weeds are plants that displace native vegetation which impacts the vitality of indigenous flora and fauna. Surprisingly, many environmental weeds are popular garden plants that have grown to become major threats to the biodiversity in the natural environment.
Common garden plants such as Agapanthus, Arum Lily, Gazania and Freesia are all environmental weeds that are detrimental to native flora and fauna.
Researchers are uncovering the secrets of seagrasses in Port Phillip Bay and Victoria as part of a collaborative study into this vital part of our marine ecosystem.
The project includes researchers from Melbourne University, the University of Tasmania, the Sydney University of Technology and Deakin University and is funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP).
The project aims to understand the resilience, reproductive biology and genetics of seagrass which is a primary producer – playing an important role as an ‘ecosystem engineer’.
Seagrasses recycle nutrients in the water and stabilise the marine environment helping to promote biodiversity and protect habitat.
Similar to the way in which coral reefs provide habitat in Queensland, seagrass colonies are part of vital habitat for a range of fauna species such as the King George Whiting, Australian Salmon and Pipefish.
Deakin University School of Life and Environmental Sciences Senior Lecturer, Craig Sherman said researchers were initially unsure of what the study would uncover.
“We discovered more seagrass diversity than expected in our research which helps us understand the regeneration processes in the bay.
“Diversity is essential for environmental adaptation which is why it is important for us to gain a greater insight about the processes that maintain seagrass populations.
“This research helps us understand the fluctuations in populations and how the seagrass responds to different influences,” said Mr Sherman.
Deakin University postdoctoral researcher, Tim Smith also worked on the project, examining the recovery times of seagrass in Port Phillip Bay.
“Our research showed that the Geelong arm is an important source of seagrass in Port Phillip Bay with high levels of seed production which suggests it is a ‘source site’.
“Seagrass is a really important ecosystem, so we need to understand its recovery mechanisms to ensure seagrass in Port Phillip Bay can recover from disturbances and environmental change in the future.
“It is particularly important to identify ‘source sites’ of seagrass that can enhance threatened sites so that they can be managed accordingly,” Mr Smith said.
New research has confirmed that an invasive species is rapidly adapting to different ecosystems along the coast, allowing it to spread fast and threatening the health of the marine environment.
A team of Deakin University researchers have been studying the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) in Australia to better understand its potential to expand its geographical range.
The invasive seastar species originates from Japan and is a voracious predator which has a major impact on the marine food chain, devastating marine wildlife.
Deakin University PhD student Mark Richardson has been conducting research to test whether its larvae have the ability to cope with elevated water temperatures, which may determine the seastar’s potential range.
“The experiments have established that Northern Pacific Seastar larvae from Port Phillip Bay have several genetic differences that allow them to adapt to the local environment.
“The same experiments were performed on native Japanese Northern Pacific Seastars to evaluate their genetic profiles and see whether the individuals living in Australia have developed greater tolerance to higher water temperatures.
“The results indicate the Northern Pacific Seastars in Australia have a higher ability to thrive in elevated water temperatures compared to the native Japanese individuals”, Mr Richardson said.
The heightened ability for the seastar to adapt to different water temperatures could pose a threat to the native marine wildlife along the East Coast of Australia.
The Northern Pacific Seastar spreads through ocean currents and could infest waters eastwards from Port Phillip Bay along the coast.
Project leader Dr. Craig Sherman from Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said the experiments conducted on seastar larvae would improve understanding about this invasive species in Australia.
“From this research we have developed a better understanding about how seastar populations are connected and how this species is adapting and spreading along the coast.
“We are interested in the ecological impacts the seastar is having on marine communities and the rapid evolution the seastar undertakes to survive in the environment,” said Dr Sherman.
The water temperature research will be able to provide information for future marine pest management strategies in Australia.
Marine pests threaten our local marine environments. To find out more about what marine pests to look out for click here.
There are so many fantastic reasons to become a volunteer, just ask any one of the 1.5 million Victorians who are actively involved in their local community.
Alicia Patterson, Communications Manager from Volunteering Victoria said there are so many positive benefits to experience from undertaking a volunteer opportunity.
“Research shows it makes you happier, but it’s no wonder really. The four main reasons we hear (and research shows) that people volunteer include to give something to the community, to get skills and experience for work and other pursuits, to meet and be with friends and for good physical and mental health,
“All of these things can be personally satisfying through giving back to the community you live in and being engaged with others. Basically, you’re a productive part of your community and doing something that adds meaning to your life,” she said.
Still not convinced? We interviewed Jan Juc Coast Action volunteer Amelia Featherston to find out what she loves most about being an environmental volunteer.
Name: Amelia Featherston
Occupation: Environmental Planning
I am a volunteer for… Jan Juc Coast Action
I have been a volunteer for… about 3 years with Jan Juc Coast Action
I contribute 2-3 hours to volunteering a month
I decided to become a volunteer because… I wanted to get involved in conservation in the local area, and saw the great work that Jac Juc Coast Action have done
Volunteer activities that I have been involved in include… participating in working bees which usually involves weeding, but sometimes planting and mulching, attending committee meetings, and helping to organise speakers and activities for the AGM. I also occasionally help with writing submissions and typing up meeting minutes.
My favourite volunteer activity is… working bees. It is great to learn from the expertise of other Coast Action volunteers, and it’s quite a good social activity, with lots of chatting while we weed and work away on the cliff tops.
My most memorable/exciting experience since being a volunteering has been… our AGM last year – it was was fantastic! The JJCA committee organised speakers to talk about local birds, and we also ran several bird themed activities for little kids, including making birds nests and eggs and we had colouring in sheets featuring local birds. Getting people involved and engaged and interested in the local environment is really important. Last winter I spent a day with other committee members hand pollinating orchids, to improve the chance of seed production, which was also fun and interesting.
My biggest achievement as a volunteer has been… I think as a group, Jan Juc Coast Action has made a real impact on the ecology of the coastal vegetation at Jan Juc, reducing the weeds and planting and protecting indigenous vegetation, meaning that the cliff tops remain a healthy, functioning ecosystem.
Volunteering is important to me… because I am involved in my local community and contributing to conservation.
My 3 favourite things about volunteering are:
1: Networking and making friends
2: Contributing to conservation projects that achieve real gains in the local environment
3: Being connected to the coast in a meaningful way
My least favourite part of volunteering is… missing out on volunteer working bees and meetings due to work commitments!
My favourite local flora/fauna species is… the windswept moonah woodland at Jan Juc, and I really like seeing the Bristlebirds bounce off into the scrub.
I would encourage other people to become volunteers… because it is really enjoyable. You always get more out of it than you put in!
I do believe there is a need for younger generations to get involved in volunteering… because many of our core volunteer groups are older and there is a need to pass the knowledge and drive to work in volunteer groups on to the next gen of volunteers.
For more information on volunteering opportunities click here.
Seven organisations have worked together to bring environmental education alive for 170 local students as part of National Water Week and in celebration of 20 years of Waterwatch.
The ‘Creek Connections’ event, which was hosted by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) at Spring Creek, saw the students learn about local water catchments.
The day involved volunteers and staff from Waterwatch, The Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre, the Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation, The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC), Estuarywatch and EcoLogic.
Grade 3 and 4 students from St Therese Primary School, Torquay P-6 College, Lorne Aireys P-12 College and Anglesea Primary School enjoyed everything from ‘water bugs’ sessions and ‘estuary discoveries’ through to a ‘walk and talk’ with Wathaurung Elder Bryon Powell.
GORCC Conservation Officer, Georgina Beale who helped to host a ‘recycle relay’ and conduct planting sessions in threatened Moonah Woodlands said students learnt about keeping water catchments healthy.
“The kids learnt about the interconnectedness of our catchments, rivers, estuary and marine environments and the protection and conservation of our river systems and their dependent eco systems,” she said.
Students worked tirelessly to create water bug costumes out of recycled items for the ‘Terrific Transformer bugs Creative Costume Challenge’ in the lead up to the event.
Winners of the best costume prize received special computer microscopes which will allow their whole class to view water bugs up close on a large screen.
Waterwatch Facilitator, Cate Barham said the diverse range of activities aimed to encourage students to develop an appreciation and understanding of marine, estuarine and freshwater environments and Wathaurung culture.
“Everything we do in our catchment can have an impact on our waterways. If you drop a piece of litter, it will eventually find its way to a waterway and then out to the ocean, where it can have devastating effects on our marine life,” she said.
Waterwatch Victoria recognises that only 22% of Victoria’s rivers are considered in good or excellent condition, highlighting the need for action to protect and maintain the health of our local water catchments.
Ms Barham encourages other community members to become active in protecting and caring for their local water catchments by joining a Landcare, Coastcare or Friends group in their area.
“We are all responsible for caring for our catchments and hopefully others will feel inspired by the enthusiastic efforts of our Creek Connections ambassadors,” she said.
WAD started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species and is now a day for remembering and paying tribute to all animals and the people who love and respect them.
According to Naturewatch UK, the aim of the day is to encourage everybody to commemorate their love and respect for animals by doing something special to highlight their importance in the world because increased awareness will lead the way to improved standards of animal welfare.
Our coast is home to a range of threatened and endangered species including the: