Key knowledge gaps for future research investment about the effects of dredging have been better targeted after the publication of the final report from a project led by Dr Britta Schaffelke at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Dredging is a core element of the debate around sustainable port and industry development and the Great Barrier Reef.
Dredging is critical to the development of ports but severe ecological impacts are predicted wherever the dredge spoil – thousands of tons of possibly toxic mud – is eventually dumped. The massive cost and logistical challenge of transporting those thousands of tons of spoil to a remote disposal site makes land disposal an unattractive option for ports.
The project team started with a list of 21 research themes on dredging impacts, which were distilled into two high-priority themes and one secondary-priority theme.
Priority 1a focuses on developing critical ecological tolerance thresholds for the impacts of suspended sediments including their effect on light levels.
Priority 1b aims to better quantify sediment transport pathways (rivers, creeks, etc).
Finally, Priority 2 will investigate the impact risks of disposing of dredge spoil on land and in reclamation areas.
The full report is available online.
More info on this project can be found here.