Out of the classroom and into the wetlands

Published: 23/06/2014

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Partners from the Mission Beach wetlands restoration project have joined Mission Beach State School in taking wetlands education out of the classroom and into the field.

More than sixty Year 6 and 7 Mission Beach State School students participated in science activities lead by the community partners to collect a range of data on the wetlands water quality, biodiversity and cultural values of the Traditional Owners.

Using their observation and listening skills with the assistance of local scientists Helen Larsen and Richard Piper the students were able to identify a healthy diversity of birds, insects and fish occupying the various habitats of the wetland and its surrounds.

The students will use this list of species as a baseline and continue to monitor the site in the future. They will compare their findings to this initial baseline to chart the recovery of the wetland and the biodiversity it supports. The communities rehabilitation efforts are helping the wetlands recovery  towards its natural state and as this happens the students are expecting the diversity of species to increase as healthy ecosystems are likely to support the greatest diversity of species. 

Students also identified a range of aquatic macro invertebrates from their samples collected from the wetland including Dragonfly nymphs, various water beetles including larval forms, back swimmers, water striders and various microscopic worms.

By analysing the diversity of species collected the students were able to conclude that while the diversity of animals was at the lower end of the scale that would be expected for a healthy wetland it was characteristic of a recovering system suggesting the communities efforts are starting to have an impact on the wetlands ecosystem health and water quality.

A new wetland interpretive sign was unveiled by community members and local Mayor Bill Shannon. The sign will help the community and visitors to the area learn more about the biodiversity supported by wetlands and the value of wetlands to health of the local catchment and neighbouring Great Barrier Reef.

Mayor Bill Shannon thanked the project partners and commended them and the community on their efforts so far to repair the wetland. He used the wetland as an example of what can be achieved when people with a common interest work together and combine their energy to achieve a common goal.

Principal Gordon Robertson said it had been a long term vision of his and the schools to create a place where the community and students could appreciate and learn about the values of wetlands and that the school looked forward to continuing to work alongside the community to ensure this vision is maintained.

Wetlands are an important part the Cassowary Coast ecosystem and provide large benefits for local birds, fish life, fish breeding and the overall health of the Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was proud to support and join its Reef Guardian program participants Cassowary Coast Regional Council and Mission Beach State School as part of the wetlands education day.

The Mission Beach wetlands restoration project is a whole of community initiative formed in response to damage caused by Cyclone Larry and Yasi to the wetlands between Mission Beach State School and Dunk Island View Caravan Park. The damage lead to an infestation of weeds to local water ways and melaleuca trees, reduced water quality and blocked natural creek flow causing localised flooding during rain periods. Community efforts so far including weed clearing and tree planting are helping to restore the area.

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