Exploring Broome’s Mangrove Ecosystems

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Mangrove roots provide shelter and food to aquatic creatures such as shrimp, crabs and fish; underwater sponges, snails and anemones also cling to these hard surfaces of mangrove root systems.

Nature’s Nursery began its journey in Whitehouse under Deb and Dave Cooper. Due to increased animal admissions, their three bedroom farmhouse quickly outgrew its capacity; eventually partnering with Blue Creek Metropark as their new location.

Mangroves

Mangroves are essential coastal wetland ecosystems, providing food and shelter to marine life as well as protecting people and their properties from flooding. Furthermore, mangroves act as carbon “sinks”, storing large amounts of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide while slowing climate change.

Mangrove forests have an expansive global distribution, yet are poorly understood. Their structural and environmental features make them difficult to detect with satellite imaging, leading to their underrepresentation on global maps of extent and condition.

Scientists from IUCN and TNC, with AIMS participating, are working together to enhance mangrove detection using remote sensing techniques. This work contributes to developing a global map of mangroves that utilizes timepoint satellite data as a means to track changes and respond appropriately.

AIMS team researchers are studying the spectral properties of individual mangrove trees and their intertidal habitats in order to enhance satellite image classification. They do so by creating annual median composites of individual Landsat scenes which contain more information than single timepoint images; this approach has proven more successful than earlier methods for improving satellite image classifiers by decreasing uncertainty related to water and vegetation classification.

Annual composites are being utilized to track ecological and hydrological changes within mangrove ecosystems and evaluate restoration programs, as well as provide a benchmark against which restoration success can be measured. This research is crucial given climate change’s and sea-level rise’s potential impacts on longevity and functional equivalency of mangrove wetlands created by humans.

Mangroves offer protected nurseries for young marine life before it travels out into deeper waters or populates coral reefs. Mangroves can also act as a buffer against erosion by slowing wave and current flow and stabilizing coastlines; in addition, their abundance of natural resources supports livelihoods of coastal regions vulnerable to storms and tsunamis.

Aboriginal people have long exploited the mangrove ecosystem for its resources, including hunting and gathering mudskippers and mudcrabs from low tide tidal pools and forest areas, harvesting oysters from the muddy mudflats, and harvesting oysters from Roebuck Bay mangrove roots, branches, and tidal pools to harvest oysters for consumption. Today Roebuck Bay mangroves provide shelter to many species of birds as well as being home to an array of crabs, fisheries, crabs, mudskippers, and crabs amongst many other creatures!

Mudflats

Coastal mudflats are an integral component of mangrove ecosystems, serving as shelter and feeding grounds for an array of marine and terrestrial fauna. Mudflats serve as nurseries for marine organisms such as molluscs, crustaceans and fish species as well as providing feeding grounds for turtles and dugongs – not forgetting being important nesting and migration spots for birds!

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Broome’s coastal mudflats are famed for the Staircase to the Moon – an exquisite optical illusion created by moonlight reflecting off rippled tidal flats at low tide. This phenomenon only appears a few nights each month at Roebuck Bay, so additional Broome Explorer Bus services provide access to this natural phenomenon.

Peat development alters many biogeochemical processes within tidal wetlands (McKee and Faulkner 2000), and predictions indicate that mangrove forests must adjust with sea-level rise by increasing vertical position within their landscape via positive soil surface elevation change (Osland et al. 2010). To assess this change, nine created and nine natural reference mangrove sites were sampled at three depths in 2010 for both plant and soil metrics at each depth level to assess changes that have taken place over time.

This information was then used to model the rate of surface elevation change at each site over time, with changes related to peat accumulation and organic matter decomposition rates.

Maximum, 20-year and 15-year rates of surface elevation change at nine created mangrove sites were significantly higher than all other ecosystems studied, reflecting increased rates of peat formation beneath mangrove forests; it can only increase as they mature and accumulate sediments.

Mangroves provide shelter to a range of native and aquatic animal life, while also serving as breeding and feeding grounds for fish, molluscs, burrowing mud worms and burrowing mud worms – essential components for the health of surrounding reef ecosystems. To experience more about its unique fauna and flora of this region, join local Yawuru man Bart Pigram on one of his guided tours through mangroves where you’ll hear ancient Dreamtime tales as well as modern tales about plants, wildlife and culture of the Kimberley region.

Marine Life

Roebuck Bay’s saline mudflats and mangroves provide shelter to an impressive diversity of marine life, rich with nutrients and beautiful coral reefs, making it the ideal spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. However, not only fish make their homes here – turtles, dugongs, two species of crocodiles all call this place home too!

Coastal mangroves provide nursery habitats for fish, invertebrates and plants and act as natural flood protection. Furthermore, coastal mangroves also provide humans with various ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, shoreline protection and fisheries support – although their global loss has increased due to human activities like land conversion and deforestation (Hamilton & Casey 2016).

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Lim et al. (2011) reported low rates of N2 fixation from microbial activity, yet mangroves can provide significant sources of nitrogen to these ecosystems through accumulations of soil organic matter (SOM) produced through microbiology (Cahoon et al. 2012).

To quantify the rate of peat formation in mangroves, we employed surface elevation table-marker horizon (SET-MH) stations to monitor soil elevation changes over time and compare rates of soil organic matter development across nine created and nine natural reference mangrove forests. From these comparisons, we were able to ascertain maximum rate, 20-year rate and 15-year rate SOM accumulation as well as their comparison with rates found in other marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Our research revealed that mangrove forests accumulated organic matter (SOM) at a much faster rate than other marine and terrestrial ecosystems, likely due to higher SOM stocks or unique hydrological features of their ecosystems. This rapid rate of SOM accumulation in mangroves is an essential factor in protecting these essential ecosystems while providing essential environmental services.

When in Broome, don’t miss the opportunity of joining Yawuru man and naturalist Bart Pigram on his two-hour Mangrove Discovery Experience at Roebuck Bay. Not only will you gain greater appreciation of local marine life while learning Aboriginal Dreamtime tales on this informative tour – plus, don’t forget your camera!

Yawuru Culture

Following the determination of their native title, many Yawuru people are rebuilding their cultural and social foundations through language revitalization, environmental management, and community development initiatives. Yawuru communities strive to live well together by undertaking these initiatives – mabu liyan means living harmoniously as one community.

Indigenous people around the world define mabu liyan as an approach to wellbeing that recognizes that country, culture, and community are inextricably interlinked and indivisibly bound together. Mabu liyan encompasses strong family relations, fulfilling one’s responsibilities to country and culture and making decisions which are self-determined; yet as with everything, mabu liyan does present its own set of unique challenges: colonisation has had an adverse impact on Aboriginal communities leading to loss of connectedness and respect between generations resulting in unhealthy behaviours including unhealthy behaviors related to drug abuse or family violence among others – leaving many feeling hopelessly alone when mabu liyan is not present – just like every endeavor, mabu liyan presents its own set of difficulties: colonisation has taken its toll with aboriginal people feeling disconnected with country, culture, community etc – leaving many feeling helpless or hopeful when looking at life as it stands today compared with what once existed historically when compared with its potential advantages compared to what mabu liyan has seen through colonisation’s loss of connectedness and respect between individuals within families as a result resulting from colonisation has left people disconnected from connection and respect; hence leading them feeling disconnected leading them resulting in unhealthy behaviour, dysfunctional relationships that lead to substance abuse as well as hope loss due to loss due to colonisation having had its effects seen when lost through losses in terms of culture being lost through various other forms such as loss of respect is being lost through colonisation had previously was and mabu compared with how it should have been before its challenges but not too its challenges due its own unique opportunities as it could once be expected or once provided before colonisation had left them feeling disen affecting them due loss due resulting from being affected negatively to losing respect leading them feeling disconnected leading them into behaviour which eventually leading to dysfunctional losses through substance abuse leading them having disconnection leading them disen by families being lost due family violence against each resulting loss resulting loss due loss so hope leading. impacted them feeling they had so causing loss.

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Yawuru people understand mabu liyan to begin with their relationship to Jangu (the land and sea Country surrounding Broome). Yawuru see Jangu as their ancestral home; here they learn, share, gather and heal together with their community members. Jangu is abundant with plant and animal life while its community members form strong and resilient bonds who know how to take care of their surroundings.

Yawuru are exploring opportunities to establish a fenced feral predator-free wildlife sanctuary on their Country. This would be the first such project in northern Australia and would be managed by an Indigenous organisation. The project could deliver numerous environmental benefits including improved water quality and habitat for marine life; increased fish and bird populations; as well as fostering greater connections to place.

Yawuru’s strategy for sustainable economic growth includes investing in education and training. One such investment is its investment in the Yawuru Aboriginal Employment and Skills Training Centre, demonstrating its strong commitment to supporting community members build skills that will expand employment opportunities. This approach serves as an excellent model for other employers and community organisations to emulate; ultimately helping Yawuru reach its vision of having Aboriginal people access all sectors of employment within its community.