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Researchers working to protect our wetlands

Researchers working to protect our wetlands

Image: Associate Professor Jose Rodriguez and Associate Professor Patricia Saco in the mangroves. Image credit: The University of Newcastle.

Around the world, coastal wetlands provide flood protection, erosion control, and are important habitats for wildlife, which in turn supports commercial fisheries. ARC-funded research led by Associate Professor Jose Rodriguez and ARC Future Fellow Associate Professor, Patricia Saco, based at The University of Newcastle is qualifying how coastal wetlands are increasingly under threat due to sea-level rise and development pressure.

Many wetlands have roads, culverts, bridges and levies, which have been overlooked in previous assessments of vulnerability to sea-level rise. By studying a wetland in the Hunter estuary, the researchers have demonstrated that coastal wetlands in developed areas of the world will disappear faster than previously thought, due to these human impacts. The interdisciplinary research team, which involved engineers and ecologists, estimate that mangrove and saltmarsh wetlands in the Hunter estuary may disappear in the next 80 years with current sea-level rise trends.

By qualifying the threat to our coastal wetlands, and with support from the Hunter Local Land Services (formerly Hunter Catchment Management Trust), the researchers have helped identify wetland flow-management strategies to increase resilience to sea-level rise and assess their carbon sequestration potential. Professor Neil Saintilan from Macquarie University also contributed to the research.

  The research has resulted in practical design and management recommendations for industry, that is already being put into practice by wetland managers to design flow control strategies to minimise climate impacts on wetlands of the Hunter estuary.


Image: Associate Professor Jose Rodriguez and Associate Professor Patricia Saco in the mangroves.
Image credit: The University of Newcastle.

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