Aboriginal knowledge assists seagrass restoration

Scientists from The University of Western Australia have partnered with Aboriginal rangers in Shark Bay to develop a seagrass restoration program that combines traditional ecological knowledge with genetically informed science.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Elizabeth Sinclair from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences and Oceans Institute said there was increasing recognition of the value provided by Aboriginal rangers to restoring damaged seagrass systems.

We’ve been working with the Malgana rangers in the UNESCO World Heritage area of Shark Bay, which they know as Gathaagudu,” Dr Sinclair said.

Butter fish explore a 2.5 year old ribbon weed restoration site | credit: Rachel Austin, UWA

“The Malgana Traditional Owners are saltwater people and have inhabited Shark Bay for more than 30,000 years. Much of their land is ‘sea country’, with their cultural heritage preserved under the extensive seagrass meadows in the shallow waters.”

Six new Rangers are being trained in seagrass restoration methods, with the genetic data informing where seed and plant material should be collected for restoration activities.

Traditional Owner and Malgana Land and Sea Ranger Nick Pedrocchi said the ranger program is restoring a sense of belonging, enabling Malgana people to reconnect to country, culture and language.

The seagrass restoration partnership is part of a project funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program Marine Biodiversity Hub.