University of Western Australia: UWA marine expertise to help assess environmental impacts of new Kwinana Port

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Six leading marine researchers from The University of Western Australia will contribute their expertise to a major collaborative science program being undertaken by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) as part of planning for a new container port in Kwinana.

They’ll join more than 100 scientists and technical experts from other WA universities, Government Departments and the private sector in partnership across more than 30 different projects, including seagrass health and restoration; water circulation and quality; potential pathways of impact on marine fauna; key ecological and biological processes; and social values research and protection strategies.

These projects are part of a three-year, $13.5 million research partnership between WAMSI and the WA Government focussing on Cockburn Sound as part of the Westport Program. Westport is the State Government’s long-term program to investigate, plan and build a future port in Kwinana with integrated road and rail transport networks.

Westport’s recommendation for a terminal in Kwinana was endorsed by the State Government in August 2020. With business case planning and the design phase under way, Westport has partnered with WAMSI to assess the environment impact of the development.

Port Kwinana CARD

Environmental scientist Associate Professor Matthew Hipsey, from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Oceans Institute, will develop an ecosystem model to simulate how water quality and benthic communities respond to the effect of different development and restoration practices.

Marine plant ecologist Professor Gary Kendrick, from the UWA Oceans Institute and School of Biological Sciences, will head a team focused on seagrass, macroalgae and macroinvertebrates communities and processes within Cockburn Sound, Owen Anchorage and Gage Roads.

Marine ecologist Dr Matthew Fraser, a research fellow from the UWA Oceans Institute and School of Biological Sciences, will investigate existing contaminants and pollutants in ground and surface water and their impact on the environmental quality of Cockburn Sound.

A team looking at hydrodynamic modelling to better understand flushing and circulation patterns following changes to the seabed in the Sound will be headed up by Professor of Coastal Oceanography Charitha Pattiaratchi from UWA’s Oceans Graduate School and Oceans Institute.

Senior Research Fellow Abbie Rogers, from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Oceans Institute, and co-director of the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy, will focus on the most important social and economic values to the community and users of Cockburn Sound.

And coastal physical oceanographer Dr Jeff Hansen, from UWA’s School of Earth Sciences and Oceans Institute, will head a group integrating historical and on-ground data, to provide insight into erosion and accumulation processes in the area to protect shoreline stability, amenity, marine ecosystems and channel stability.

Director of the UWA Oceans Institute Associate Professor Julian Partridge said it was testimony to the depth and breadth of marine research expertise at UWA that so many of the Oceans Institute’s world-class research staff had been invited to join the WAMSI-led project.

“By deploying their strong marine expertise, these UWA Oceans Institute researchers are directly addressing the needs of Western Australia, helping to improve the Westport’s capacity to avoid, mitigate and offset environmental impacts of the new development, and ultimately providing critical knowledge required for the future management of Cockburn Sound,” Associate Professor Partridge said.

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