The Great Ocean Road coast is constantly changing.
While Victoria has a long history of weather variability such as storms, droughts and floods, climate change is projected to increase risks to coastal environments through drivers such as sea-level rise, change in wave-direction and increases in swell energy and storm tide events. These drivers affect coastal erosion, sediment supply and inundation and are expected to vary geographically across Victoria’s coastal zone.
The Victorian Coastal Monitoring Program (VCMP) aims to provide communities with information on coastal condition, change, hazards, and the expected longer-term impacts associated with climate change that will support decision making and adaptation planning. Read more →
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.
A new monitoring program is set to identify what fauna species are living on our coastal reserves and measure the success of ongoing conservation works.
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) is working with volunteer groups to establish a monitoring system which will gather data using a range of techniques including infrared cameras, and mammal surveys.
Flora surveying will also be conducted, with transect lines and photo points to be set up on conservation sites.
GORCC Environmental Projects Manager, Alex Sedger said that the program will provide an in-depth analysis of the different species living along the coast and help GORCC and volunteers to develop conservation strategies.
“It is important that we are able to quantify the fauna in the area to direct resources in the best strategic way.
“Our conservation has primarily focused on weed control and pest eradication, so it will be interesting to analyse what impact our work is having on the environment,” Ms Sedger said.
GORCC has engaged local consultant Luke Hynes from Beacon Ecological to assist with the revision and implementation of the organisation’s Native Vegetation and Weed Action Plan.
Mr Hynes, who recommended the implementation of a monitoring system, said the infrared cameras are an important tool in evaluating the health of the environment.
“The data collected from the cameras will provide valuable information for GORCC’s land management and will help educate volunteer groups about the animals in the area,” Mr Hynes said.
The cameras will be set up in several different locations to record both native and pest animal activity in each area.
Parks Victoria has successfully used infrared cameras in the Otways region and most recently in Wilsons Promontory to monitor fauna, capturing a number of native animals including endangered and threated species.
“The results of their research is very encouraging and we hope the monitoring we undertake in our local area will have similar results,” Ms Sedger said.
It is hoped that the cameras will also capture feral pests with a particular focus on their impact on vulnerable species such as the Hooded Plover.
Ms Sedger said the project would include collaboration with the many environmental volunteer groups working on the GORCC –managed coast.
“Volunteers are very keen to see this type of monitoring take place and we are looking forward to working with them and supporting their invaluable work,” she said.
More information on environmental volunteering is available at www.gorcc.com.au.
What do you think about the new monitoring systems? Have your say below.
Research conducted by the CSIRO has determined Australia’s dirtiest beaches.
The two year survey, which investigated over 175 beaches, revealed that Border Village, on the coast between Western Australia and South Australia was the dirtiest beach in Australia. Pearse’s Road Beach claimed the title of Victoria’s filthiest beach.
The CSIRO study revealed that more than 150 million pieces of litter across Australia’s coastline.
Plastics were found to be the most prominent form of litter across Australian beaches, which can have serious repercussions on marine wildlife and coastal environments.
Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Conservation (GORCC) Supervisor Georgie Beale believes this should be a reminder to keep our own local beaches pristine.
“While our coastal beaches are far better than some in terms of cleanliness, there is always room for improvement,” she said.
There are a numerous ways you can ensure the cleanliness of our beautiful beaches.
Dispose of waste correctly in the bins provided around the coast
Take your rubbish with you when leaving the beach
Dispose of recyclable material correctly
Ensure that fishing gear and supplies are not left behind on beaches
Report any entangled marine life
Join a local volunteer group on a beach clean up
“We all play a part in keeping our beaches pollution free for everyone to enjoy,” Ms Beale said.
Below is full a list of the dirtiest and cleanest beaches of each state in Australia:
New South Wales:
Dirtiest: Shelly Beach, Manly
Cleanest: Red Rock Beach, NSW North Coast
Dirtiest: Cape Arnhem
Cleanest: Cape Hay
Queensland: Dirtiest: Barney Point Beach
Dirtiest: Border Village (SA)
Cleanest: Nora Creina
Dirtiest: East Kangaroo Island (West Gulch)
Cleanest: Cape Grim
Spending time in the natural environment results in improvements to mental, physical and social health.
Research highlights the link between the environment and our health, including a 2010 project undertaken by Deakin University, which found that psychological benefits stem from engaging with outdoor open spaces.
These benefits include improved mood, lower levels of anxiety, lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and increased physical activity.
Active in Parks, a Healthy Parks – Healthy People Program, is fostered by People and Parks Foundation, Barwon Medicare Local, G21 and Parks Victoria, while Medibank Community Fund is the program’s major sponsor.
Active in Parks co-ordinator Jayde Mulder said the initiative aimed to connect people to their local parks and outdoor spaces to enhance their physical and mental health.
“Parks provide a place for community connectedness, establishing social relationships and engaging in physical activity which can all have positive effects on people’s physical and mental health.
“The Active in Parks initiative provides various outdoor programs for all ages including, exercise classes, walking groups and adventure activities for kids which are all fantastic ways of staying active and engaging with your local environment.”
Coastal volunteering is another great way to experience these physical and psychological benefits.
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) recognises this link and works to immerse schools and other groups in the natural coastal environment.
The committee also supports and works with a variety of environmental volunteer groups.
GORCC conservation officer Georgina Beale said coastal volunteering not only benefited our environment, but our health and wellbeing as well.
“Coastal volunteering increases physical fitness and gives people a sense of belonging and pride.”
Volunteers can participate in a range of conservation tasks including weeding, revegetation, and monitoring native birds and animals. “Volunteer groups such as Friends of Taylors Park, Friends of Eastern Otway’s and Friends of Queens Park in Lorne are always looking for extra hands to help protect and enhance the environment,” Ms Beale said.
“Get involved! It’s not just good for the coast, it’s great for you, too.
“From meeting new people through to getting some exercise, there are so many reasons to get involved.”
Have you ever considered where the piece of plastic blowing on the beach came from? A team of dedicated reasearch scientists have made it their mission to trace rubbish and debris on our beaches back to it’s source.
This research is being conducted to better understand the impact of debris on marine eco-systems.
The team of marine scientists led by CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Britta Denise Hardesty are stopping every 100km around the Australian coastline to catalogue rubbish and debris.
Dr Hardesty said debris collected during the surveys will be analysed by looking for barcodes and other identifying markers to determine its origin.
“This research will allow us to determine the distribution of marine debris and whether the debris comes from land based sources or washes in from the sea.
Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm.
“Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm,” she said.
Studies by CSIRO and other research organisations have revealed more than 270 species of marine animals are affected by marine debris worldwide.
This YouTube clip demonstrates why it’s important to make sure you dispose of rubbish correctly.
The forum generated various ideas for the next steps that could be taken towards realising our future aspirations as coast carers. These ideas could be grouped into four key themes.
In the conversations we have from now onwards, we need to:
continue to talk about the BIG questions that we hold and find ways of communicating the key messages simply – with each other and with others (e.g. Why is our work important? What does it matter?)
create opportunities for more conversations between our community and the various agencies involved in coast care
look for opportunities where people are gathering to talk about related topics (e.g. fire management) and draw links to our purpose and activities, and
reframe the language we use when communicating with others (e.g. refer to ‘vegetation’ as ‘habitat’ – see Birds Australia publications for good examples of simple, accessible language).
We also need to use the stories we share as a foundation to:
create an ‘interpretive story’ for visitors to experience on the soon-to-be-built Surf Coast Walk
set a mission that everyone shares the stories (i.e. what we do and why) with as many people as we can and then invite them to join us in taking action
capture and share the great stories that we all know about (and start to actively collect these stories in words, photos and video), and
use our broader network to create its own online space that is accessible and simple, and allows local groups to upload and share stories, photos, event details, questions and video.
In the work we do together, we can start to:
fund and prioritise ongoing monitoring programs to inform our learning and outcomes
make our activities more visible to other people, starting with working bees and other activities on the Great Ocean Road (Note: during the forum, Coast Action/Coastcare provided a sign template that groups could use to promote their activities)
start to research and document (e.g. in a story) the extent to which we are ‘winning or losing’ the battle to save key ecosystem species/the war against environmental weed species, and
begin looking to the philanthropic sector as a possible funding source for our projects (e.g. www.ourcommunity.com.au).
By networking more we could:
find a central point of contact that works across all the agencies (e.g. Coast Action/Coastcare)
update our own lists of all current volunteer groups, starting with centralised information sources (e.g. Surf Coast Shire, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee), and
make the effort to do more ‘volunteer exchanges’ when doing on-ground works.
If we focus on implementing some or all of these ideas as we talk, share, work together and network, we will move forward together and achieve more on-ground success in caring for the coast!
Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Australia’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people through conservation, activism, research and education.
Marine debris is a key Surfrider initiative due to its detrimental impacts on marine and coastal environments, particularly animal and bird life. The foundation’s focus is on empowering individuals and community groups at the local level to proactively remove and reduce the amount of marine debris through local beach cleanups and community education activities.
The initiative engages volunteers, community groups, industry and government agencies, and other environmental organisations in making a positive and sustainable impact on marine debris. Locally-based Surfrider Foundation community groups are responsible for beach clean-ups in their own areas, including along the Surf Coast.
These activities help to protect and conserve our precious marine and coastal environments for future generations, which includes safer habitat for indigenous fauna. There is also a strong emphasis on creating awareness in the community.
The initiative highlights:
the importance of data gathering and analysis in helping to address sources of marine debris
the value of social responsibility and education, and
the need to actively engage with the community to create positive social change.
Story provided by Kristy Theissling, General Manager, Surfrider Foundation (Australia)