The Great Barrier Reef is spectacular and most of us would immediately visualise its azure waters and the kaleidoscopic colours of coral reefs. However, islands are often not fully recognized as being a critical part of this reef ecosystem. Indeed, many iconic reef species such as marine turtles and seabirds simply could not continue to survive without their island breeding grounds. Conservation of island ecosystems is critical to the long-term management of these and many other species within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
As part of a World Heritage Area, the Great Barrier Reef Islands deserve our very best management efforts. Unfortunately, significant threats are still acting on these ecosystems. Marine debris, particularly plastic bags, discarded netting and rope easily entangle marine turtles and seabirds, and those same bags and smaller plastic pieces are often eaten, being mistaken for food.
The results are catastrophic. Breeding areas remain subject to the ravages of invasive weeds that modify, for the worst, entire ecosystems. In some cases, other threats such as climate change are almost certainly having an impact on seabirds and marine turtles, but we do not yet understand this well enough to make the appropriate management interventions that might reduce these impacts.
The Wildmob team will set sail at dawn on Monday the 18th January for our very first conservation expedition of 2016. Our mission to to collect baseline information on the spread of several key weed species on the islands off Mackay, and that will help us plan our control work during 2016. We will also be looking very carefully at the condition of key areas of vegetation on the islands, so that we can better help the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to plan for ecologically based fire management. We will also be travelling through the Smith Group of islands where in early 2015 we caught a glimpse of the incredibly rare Snubfin Dolphin. We are really excited about the possibility of being able to confirm their continued existence in these waters.
So, we’re off on our first Adventure of 2016!
Of course just because there is plenty of work at hand, doesn’t mean we won’t be having a pile of fun. We are looking forward to some terrific snorkelling in crystal clear waters, bushwalking over rarely visited remote islands, and of course a cool drink at sunset amongst friends as we plan more of our 2016 adventures.
So stay tuned in to keep in touch with us during the week and see for yourself what we’re up to….
PS. and don’t forget to book in your own adventure for 2016!