Australia: Massive dieback of mangrove forests in Gulf of Carpentaria is slowing down

Daniel Bateman, The Cairns Post 20 Jan 17;

DIEBACK that has affected large swaths of mangrove forests in the Gulf of Carpentaria appears to have slowed.

More indigenous rangers have been recruited to monitor the unprecedented dieback of 7000ha of coastal vegetation that was first observed more than a year ago stretching from near Karumba to 1000km west.

The causes are still unknown, but researchers believe it has been linked to climate change.

The event coincided with the worst coral bleaching event recorded on the Great Barrier Reef. James Cook University researcher Professor Norm Duke said the dieback ­appeared to have slowed in recent months.

“The status is that it hasn’t increased,” he said.

“It’s basically stabilised and now the environment is just dealing with the consequences.

“In other words, there is erosion where there is dead roots and so forth.”

Loss of mangroves can expose shorelines to severe storms and waves, resulting in massive coastal erosion.

Dead mangroves can also have profound negative impacts on local fisheries.

JCU’s TropWater agency has received $25,758 funding from the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporate to continue training southern Gulf rangers to monitor the mangrove forests for further signs of dieback.

Prof Duke said it was crucial the mangrove forests were carefully monitored.

“The dieback is not something that we’ve seen before,” he said.