Today, we celebrate the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, a day set by UNESCO.
Mangroves are a valuable asset for the atmospheric carbon they sequester, the protection they provide from tidal surges and for the habitat they offer to a multitude of other organisms, many of which are food for humans.
This relationship is being uncovered by a range of research projects funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC). Understanding the role mangroves play as habitat for fisheries, can provide greater rationale for their protection.
Commercial species such as Mangrove Jack, Barramundi, Mud Crabs and Banana Prawns, rely on Mangroves as their nursery habitat.
A 2020 FRDC-funded study highlighted the role of mangroves as they support the productivity of prawn fisheries around NSW’s Wallis Lake. The study used a methodology known as natural capital accounting which can be used to value the contribution of natural assets such as mangroves.
Environmental scientists Dr Becky Schmidt from CSIRO and Dr Ian Cresswell from the University of Newcastle developed this methodology from the business-focused Natural Capital Protocol and the UN’s System of Environmental–Economic Accounting, to determine the connections between ecosystem assets, society and the economy.
The research shows effective management of the whole system requires catchment and water management alongside fisheries management, so the direct impacts of both terrestrial and water-based users on the shared natural capital in the estuary can be considered.
Earlier projects, also funded by the FRDC, unravelled the complicated relationships between fishery productivity and estuarine habitats in three NSW estuaries and developed tools to understand the mosaic of habitat types, including mangroves, utilised by different species.
Australia is home to seven per cent of the world’s mangroves covering about 11,500 km2. If we understand it better then we have a greater chance of protecting it and the life it supports.