Research highlights vital hoodie sites

New research conducted by Deakin University and Birdlife Australia has found that endangered Hooded Plovers select breeding locations based on food availability.

The research compared 56 different beach sites in Victoria and collected more than 7,500 invertebrates to determine the potential food source available at each location.

Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes. Photo: Anna Cuttriss
Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes.
Photo: Anna Cuttriss

Deakin University Honours student Anna Cuttriss worked with Birdlife Australia examine known breeding sites and sites where Hooded Plover’s had not been recorded.

Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline. Photo: Mike Weston
Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline.
Photo: Mike Weston

Birdlife Australia’s Coast and Marine Program Manager Grainne Maguire, who co-supervised the research, said the findings were significant.

“This information will assist in the identification of potential breeding sites and help us to better understand how many Hooded Plovers should ideally exist in Victoria.

“An abundance of food was found in the vicinity of known breeding sites and these sites were largely dominated by amphipods (such as sand hoppers) whereas non-inhabited sites hosted more beetles,”

Hooded Plovers are tagged to track their nesting locations. Photo: Mike Weston
Hooded Plovers were tagged by Birdlife Australia to monitor and identify hooded plover breeding sites.
Photo: Mike Weston

The quantity of Hooded Plover food available on beaches across Victoria varies immensely, highlighting the importance of the current known breeding sites which are limited in number.

Deakin University Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Biology Mike Weston said Hooded Plover’s have limited breeding capacity and need help to survive.

“This research has provided insight to how much habitat is actually suitable for Hooded Plovers and the types of food sources they look for when breeding.

“There are so many people in the community engaged in the conservation effort and this research is another piece of the jigsaw,” he said.

Great Ocean Road Coat Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale worked tirelessly with volunteers last breeding season to protect three breeding sites on GORCC managed land.

It was estimated that the Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast volunteers have donated over 1,800 hours of their time working to protect chicks.

Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.
Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.

“As a community we need to work together to conserve these known breeding sites and give the Hooded Plovers the best chance of survival.

“The research confirms that these local breeding sites are vital for the ‘Hoodies’,” Ms Beale said.

The full research paper will be published in CSIRO Marine and Freshwater Research Journal later this year.

Hooded Plovers are listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 and have one of the lowest survival rates of any species in the world.

More information on Hooded Plovers is available at our Save the Hoodie website.

Are you interested in helping our wonderful volunteers protect our precious hoodies? Click here for more information about volunteering in the Surf Coast.

Seagrass secrets uncovered

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).

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Seagrass in Port Phillip Bay. Photo: Tim Smith

 

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.

Sieving seagrass sediment sample to look for seeds. Photo: Tim Smith
Sieving seagrass sediment sample to look for seeds. Photo: Tim Smith

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.

Dr Paul York cutting  seagrass sample for research. Photo: Tim Smith
Researcher Dr Paul York cutting some seagrass samples for research. Photo: Tim Smith

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.

Cut seagrass for research. Photo: Tim Smith
Cut seagrass for research. Photo: Tim Smith

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times Greening the Coast column.

 

Interested in learning more about seagrass? Watch the video below to find out more.

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