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Magnificent Mangroves

The Wet Tropics has the highest diversity of mangroves in the world, including some of the tallest and oldest. We’re learning more about them, thanks to more than 350 volunteer ‘citizen scientists’.

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Mangroves absorb up to 10 times more carbon than other trees and 50 times faster

Mangroves act as a natural buffer to protect our coastlines from cyclones and storm surges, provide nursery habitat for about 75 per cent of our coastal fish and act as kidneys for the Great Barrier Reef.

They are incredibly important to our coastal ecosystems and a growing number of volunteers are helping to monitor their condition on MangroveWatch boat trips where they record video footage of the shoreline, take photos and mark observations of wildlife and human impacts. The data is analysed by scientists to determine how the shoreline is changing each year.

The MangroveWatch program first began in Trinity Inlet and the Barron River in 2017. Since then, Dickson Inlet has been added along with the Starke, Endeavour, Mulgrave and Russell rivers, and last year monitoring began in the Johnstone, Moresby and Hinchinbrook estuaries.

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC) project officer Shannon Bredeson recently returned from surveying the Hinchinbrook Channel and says “albino” mangrove propagules were sighted on the trip.

“Mangroves tend to be in a poorer condition in areas with urban development but natural events like storms and sea level rise can also cause damage. In the Hinchinbrook Channel, where mangroves are recovering from recent cyclones, there is evidence of storm damage and sea level rise, including dead apple mangroves along the shoreline,” she says.

“We also noted albino propagules, which is an indicator of fuel and oil pollution.”
Shannon says local action plans are being developed with communities to identify activities to improve mangroves.

“These vary from area to area but can include things like education campaigns, revegetation projects, re-establishing fish habitat and, in some cases, land buybacks.”

Worldwide there is a die-back of mangroves due to climate change. Locally they are impacted by urban development, rubbish, pollution and weeds.

“Mangroves provide so many important ecosystem services to our communities but unfortunately, they compete with our growing population for oceanfront views.

“Clearing mangroves is a double whammy for the reef – it causes erosion and releases carbon into the atmosphere, so looking after our mangroves is important for the future of the Great Barrier Reef.”


  • There are 80 species of mangroves in the world, with 38 recorded in the Wet Tropics.
  • Mangroves absorb up to 4-10 times more carbon than other trees and 50 times faster.
  • Mangroves are viviparous (they produce live young) – propagules are ready to grow like a seedling once it falls from the tree.


**MangroveWatch Cairns & FNQ is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Landcare Australia. It is delivered by CAFNEC in partnership with EarthWatch Australia, First Nations Partners and landcare groups.


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