University of Western Australia: Shark Bay Festival to focus on Wirriya Jalyanu (seagrass) and restoration

Next week’s Wirriya Jalyanu (seagrass) Festival aims to raise awareness of the devastation to seagrass in the Shark Bay area (Gathaagudu) and restoration efforts by scientists from The University of Western Australia and Malgana Rangers.

The festival will be held in Denham, Shark Bay on Thursday 8 April, and members of the local community are invited to attend.

Wirriya Jalyanu (seagrass) is the dominant ecosystem in the waters of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. A healthy seagrass ecosystem drives the productivity and cultural significance of the region. In 2011, the bay experienced a marine heatwave and more than 1,300sqkm of seagrass was lost or damaged.

Professor Gary Kendrick, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, said dramatic reductions in iconic and culturally significant species including green sea turtles, dugong, cormorants and sea snakes followed as the disappearance of seagrass meadows meant they lost their food and homes.

“Even the bottlenose dolphins were impacted as their food depends on the seagrass for habitat,” Professor Kendrick said.

Researchers from The University of Western Australia partnered with Malgana Rangers to restore the unique marine environment.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Elizabeth Sinclair, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences and Oceans Institute, said as part of the seagrass restoration project, UWA scientists and Malgana Rangers were working together to restore the two dominant species of seagrass in the Shark Bay world Heritage Area – wire weed (Amphibolis antarctica) and ribbon weed (Posidonia australis).

“We are using several restoration methods to assist the recovery of these important marine plants”

Dr Elizabeth Sinclair
Free public talks by researchers will be held at the Denham Town Hall on Wednesday 7 April. Speakers include UWA’s Professor Kendrick and Dr Ana Sequeira and Malgana woman Bianca McNeair.

The Wirriya Jalyanu Festival combines knowledge of the Traditional Owners and western science and provides the local community of Denham and Gathaagudu the opportunity to celebrate seagrass and the animals that live among the seagrass through artistic, scientific and cultural activities for all ages.

This festival was developed by the Malgana Aboriginal Corporation, Malgana Rangers and UWA scientists. Other festival activities include bush tucker cooking demonstrations, archaeology and craft demonstrations, an archaeological dig to find treasure and storytelling with Malgana elders.

This seagrass restoration project is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; as well as the WA State Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

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