Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Whose coast is it? Adapting for the future.

Whose coast is it? Adapting for the future was the theme of the Fifth State Coastal Conference held in Fremantle last week. CCA was represented by Yvonne, Frauke and Sue thanks to the generous sponsorship of the conference organisers, Perth NRM and Lotterywest. It was an excellent conference covering big picture issues to great local stories like the turtle monitoring program at Port Hedland.
In Yvonne's words :
"Well, what an experience the last few days have been at the WA State Coastal Conference. It was a great opportunity to learn about the work being done by such a diverse group of organisations and individuals involved with monitoring, managing and caring for the coastal regions of WA. It’s amazing how much is being achieved. They are a passionate and knowledgeable group and many were so rightly recognised for their efforts at the Coastal Awards for Excellence held on the Thursday evening.

It was pleasing to hear several presenters make reference to the importance of preserving and re-establishing local native species which, for me, was recognition that what we are doing as CCA volunteers is worthwhile and valued. Whilst I really enjoyed all keynote speakers, I would have to say Prof Kingsley Dixon’s presentation was particularly fabulous because he spoke about the local native plants (and weeds!) we are so focused on in our volunteer work along the Cottesloe coast.

It’s good to look at the bigger picture every now and then and to understand the perspectives of others working to care for our coastline. But I have to say it’s on the dunes where I feel I’m most useful and happy. I’m looking forward to getting back to the dunes with HITS. After a few days of desperately trying to get my head around so many acronyms I thought I’d throw in one of my own (Hands In The Sand)."

These are some of the papers that we found particularly interesting.

Professor Kingley Dixon. Coastal restoration in a biological hotspot.
Kingley’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic presentation emphasised justification and reasons for CCA’s work:
  • Coastal fragmentation causes loss of ecological connections - therefore restoration of indigenous plants is imperative to reconnect the ecosystems.
  • The dynamic nature of our costal areas enables them to revegetate naturally, including all those robust introduced weeds – therefore weed eradication is necessary; without coastcarers’ intervention the weeds will displace coastal species.
  • WA’s highly endemic plants have low ecological resistance, left to fight for themselves they will lose – therefore we need to help them.
  • Science is essential to lead on the ground work to success, theorists must communicate with practitioners – good examples are higher seeds yield of the Coast Sword-sedge [Lepidesperma gladiatum] and the Prickle Lily [Acanthocarpus preissii].
It was wonderful news, that Kingsley is in the process of publishing a new book on coastal plants.
Dr Stephen Leatherman. What makes a great beach?
Dr Leatherman is the Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. In his spare time he is Dr Beach, coordinating the National Healthy Beaches Campaign. Each year in America the top ten beaches are nominated ranked against Dr Beach’s more than 50 stringent criteria that balance environmental and recreational criteria. The list is eagerly awaited each year and the spin off is that it promotes good beach management practices.

Dr Simon Thrush. Informing decision making for the sustainable management of coasts and estuaries.
Simon Thrush’s paper discussed the complex interactions involving biological, chemical and physical processes that occur in the marine environment. Understanding these interactions is important so that “threshold” events that will change an ecosystem beyond the point of no return can be identified. Sea urchins moving across sediment were one example. As the sea urchins move across the sea floor they stir up micro algae. This affects the rate of photosynthesis and thus the amount of oxygen in the water. A change such as a reduction in the number of sea urchins may cause unanticipated consequences and the ability to predict these changes is important. As he said, “the details matter in understanding your bit of coast.”

Professor Rodger Tomlinson. Coastal Planning Development and Working with Local Government.
The Queensland planning experience highlighted both problems and solutions. In the 1960’s and 70’s many Queensland coastal areas in Queensland were subject to severe storms and flooding. Since that time there has been extensive building on the sites that were flooded. As the climatic conditions of 30/40 years ago return, millions of dollars worth of housing is now under threat. University researchers and local government are now working together to predict threats and develop effective strategies.

Professor Richard Weller. How to harness the energy of population growth to our advantage.
As the speed of Perth’s population growth outpaces people’s imagination, and as most people in WA want to live as close to the coast as possible, Coastcarers should become involved in discussing possible scenarios that may prevent the further destruction of coastal areas for residential development. Richard Weller’s new, excellently produced and substantial book Boomtown 2050 provides comprehensive and stimulating food for thoughts.
Cottesloe was the focus for two papers.

Dr Robert Kay. Coastal climate change risk assessment in Australia: a view from the beachface.
Beach erosion and rising sea levels were much discussed and the importance of local modelling was emphasised. Cottesloe is fortunate in being the focus for Robert Kay’s detailed analysis of the likely impacts of rising sea levels. The report is available here.
Assoc. Prof. Lynnath Beckley. Staking a claim with beach towels. Recreational usage of the West Australian Coast.
Professor Beckley and the researchers at Murdoch University have used some interesting data collection methods to try to understand what people are actually doing on WA beaches. To find out what was happening on Perth beaches, including Cottesloe, the researcher flew with the twice daily shark patrol flights in the summer of 2003/2004. Their findings are presented in this report.
Our thanks to the organisers for bringing together such an interesting range of speakers and the opportunity for CCA as a community group to share in the knowledge that is here in our scientific community.
Posted by Frauke, Yvonne and Sue


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