Benthic Fauna Surveys of Gulf of Carpentaria Mudflats (Southeast Queensland) and Indigenous Ranger Training

In October 2017, WRM assisted the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (CLCAC) to survey the benthic invertebrate fauna of inter-tidal mudflats of the Gulf of Carpentaria in South Eastern Queensland, and provide on-ground training for its rangers.

The Southeast region of the Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland, Australia), represents a diverse landscape of mangroves, salt flats, sandy and shell beaches as well as vast inter-tidal flats, areas of which are managed and protected by the Gangalidda and Garawa, and Kurtijar, traditional owners of the region. Management plans for these important habitats are implemented by CLCAC, under the guidance of the Gangalidda and Garawa People and the Kurtijar People respectively.

The extensive tidal flats of the Gulf of Carpentaria have been shown to support a diverse community of migratory shorebirds, which migrate to the region on an annual basis as part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network. As the third most important location in Australia for shorebirds, the management of the coastal ecosystems of the South-East Gulf of Carpentaria is integral for the continuation and sustainability of the internationally renowned Flyway Network. Large numbers of up to 20 different species of shorebirds migrate annually to the 350 km of Gulf coastline to roost and feed on the benthic infauna, before departing to northern breeding grounds in Siberia.

Under the Kurtijar Land and Saltwater Country Plan, the coastal connection and importance of the intertidal flats to the traditional owners of the region are also addressed, stating:

“As our ancestors before us, we still walk through the mangroves and to the coast with our Elders to collect mussels and other shellfish. These activities remind us that the land, the rivers and the sea are all connected… Our country and livelihoods are dependent on the health of our rivers and wetlands.”

In 2017, CLCAC contracted Wetland Research & Management (WRM) to undertake a preliminary survey of the benthic inter-tidal fauna of the South-East Gulf, and provide training to the CLCAC ranger groups in survey methods and identification of benthic fauna.

Sampling took place in October 2017, with over 63 different taxa collected and identified. Among the taxonomic groups recorded were 28 molluscs (including 13 bivalves (mussels and clams) and 15 gastropods (snails)), 20 annelid (worm) species, 11 crustaceans (crabs, prawns and shrimps), and one species each of sipuncula (peanut worm; Sipunculus nudus), echinoidea (sand dollar; Arachnoides tenuis), and hemichordata (Acorn worms; Balanoglossus spp.). WRM staff also provided on-ground training, taxonomic QAQC and technical advice to CLCAC rangers, with the aim of providing the rangers with the skills and knowledge to conduct their own benthic fauna sampling and identification in the near future.

If you have any questions about this project, or require surveys of inter-tidal mudflats, invertebrate identifications and/or on-ground training, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!