Celebrating World Turtle Day in South East Queensland

Photo credit: Diane Oxenford

 

In celebration of World Turtle Day on May 23, we would like to draw your attention to a sand dune stabilisation project underway at Bribie Island’s Woorim Beach. Healthy Land and Water is supporting the Bribie Island Environment Protection Association (BIEPA) and the Barung Landcare Skilling Queenslanders for Work team to deliver the Woorim Beach Dune Rehabilitation Project, funded by the National Landcare Program and Moreton Bay Regional Council. The project aims to enhance the area for turtle nesting by reducing dune erosion and artificial light spill through weed control and revegetation.

Bribie Island lies within the internationally recognised listed Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland, one of the most important feeding and nesting grounds for marine turtles along the east coast of Australia. Green turtles graze on seagrass while loggerheads eat the shellfish, crabs, sea urchins and jellyfish that live in seagrass meadows.

Two hectares of sand dunes will be stabilised along the beach at Woorim through comprehensive manual weeding, drilling, and chemical weed management where appropriate, followed by revegetation. Healthy dune systems will provide stable nesting habitat for the internationally endangered loggerhead turtles. As temperatures rise the subtropical beaches will become even more important for maintaining healthy populations with gender balance, as the sex of turtles is determined by the nest temperature and a range of other conditions.

As a result of the diminished vegetation along the coast, artificial light from the street and houses can spill onto the beach. When turtles hatch, they can head towards this artificial light instead of the light on the horizon out to sea. Turtles will usually only choose to nest on dark beaches. Building the height of the native dune vegetation will help prevent artificial light spilling onto the beach.

 

 

Photo credit: Diane Oxenford

 

President of BIEPA Diane Oxenford has been the main turtle monitor for Bribie Island since 2008 and has driven this project. Over the years, Diane has developed extensive knowledge and expertise through training with the Department of Environment and Science turtle expert Dr Colin (Col) Limpus.

“The numbers of endangered Loggerhead Turtles of the South Pacific Ocean that nest along beaches in South East Queensland are diminishing. In 1977 it was estimated there were 3,500 nesting loggerhead turtles. Today the number is estimated to be around 500,” says Diane.

Diane says it is important this work and funding is considered long-term, if not a permanent commitment.

“The more dune available for a storm event to consume, the more likely it is the dunes will recover and maintain their stability and ability to protect the built environment and provide healthy habitat for wildlife. It is important to prevent costly engineered solutions to beach erosion. It would be so sad to lose Woorim’s natural bush setting,” says Diane.

Thanks to the extraordinary teams of volunteers who work on the coast every turtle nesting season from November through to April the numbers of hatchlings that make it to the ocean have increased by thousands over the past 15 years.

 

This Woorim Beach Dune Rehabilitation Project will be completed by June 2020, delivered with appropriate COVID-19 measures in place. The site will also be maintained by revegetation for years, as there is a lot of wallaby grazing in the area.

If you would like to learn more or find out how you can be involved post COVID-19, please get in contact with BIEPA.

 

This project is supported by the Bribie Island Environment Protection Association (BIEPA), Barung Landcare and Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare program and Moreton Bay Regional Council.

 

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