Regenerating Our Coasts is moving into an exciting phase – mangrove seeds planted into our trial plots over summer have germinated and are starting to grow. Over the coming months (and years) we’ll be monitoring their growth and survival under various methods, including the use of biodegradable structures as a novel way to enhance active restoration of mangroves and other coastal wetland species.
Many hands make light work
Monitoring growth of seedlings in the field can be very time and labour intensive, especially for a small team of researchers. In general, active restoration programs are costly – rearing seedlings in nurseries, creating and installing structures to protect seedlings as they grow, and the process of trial and error to refine techniques all take time, money, and effort.
The good news is that sometimes, the community can step in to lend a hand. Citizen science provides an avenue for people without formal scientific training to get involved in a project, learning more about a subject, while contributing valuable data. An army of citizen scientists can carry out a lot in a short timeframe or cover much more ground than a small team of researchers can manage. Done right, citizen science can be a mutual benefit to both the participants and the researchers.
Recently the Regenerating Our Coasts team were joined in the field by some eager citizen scientists to help us track the progress of our restoration trials. An intrepid group from project partner Beach Energy, along with environmental and technical officers Adam and Andrew from Bunurong Land Council, donned their boots and headed out to the muddy shore at one of our sites on Bunurong Country in Western Port, Victoria. We also received a visit from ranger Nigel of Parks Victoria, who was happy to share his local knowledge, while helping take measurements.
For each trial plot, the citizen scientists were tasked with counting the number of germinated versus dead seeds as well as the height class and number of leaf pairs of any surviving seedlings. That way, we can measure the relative success rate of the novel method (biodegradable structures) compared to established methods e.g., using bamboo stakes – a method deployed by the Westernport Seagrass Partnership that improves early survival of mangrove seedlings but comes with its own challenges as the seedlings grow.
For plots that contained a biodegradable structure, our citizen scientists also measured the height of the structure above the sediment – this will be used to estimate the amount of soil accumulating around the structures. One advantage of using the structures is that the lattice should help prevent soil loss by erosion, giving the seedlings a better chance to establish their roots.
Our researchers were fielding some great questions from the Beach Energy and Bunurong Land Council teams as they worked their way through the plots, and it was also a good way to evaluate our survey methods. Knowledge exchange between researchers and participants is another benefit of a successful citizen science event, and we thank everyone who showed up on the day for their enthusiastic participation.
Where to for #ReGenOurCoasts?
The plan is to continue checking our seedlings and direct transplants seasonally, with opportunities for more citizen science days. We’re also growing mangrove seedlings ready to plant directly into structures next year. In the meantime, the data gathered by researchers and citizen scientists will help us evaluate and refine these active restoration methods for coastal wetland species.
To keep up to date with the project, watch this space and follow us at #ReGenOurCoasts!