Working with Traditional Owners and local citizens to better manage GBR estuarine wetlands

Norman Duke
Led by: Dr Norman Duke, JCU


Project Summary

Traditional Owner rangers and local citizens of the Port Curtis Coral Coast (PCCC) TUMRA will be engaged in developing a Mangrove Management Plan (MMP) that provides a strategic basis for estuarine repair activity and maximizes water quality outcomes in the southern GBR. Development of this MMP will build capacity within the Gidarjil Development Corporation (GDC) and local community to undertake scientifically-rigorous, ecological monitoring and assessment. These management and rehabilitation strategies will protect sea country resources through partnerships between community, scientists and NRM agencies. The MMP will enable rangers and citizen scientists to conduct scientifically valid surveys of estuarine monitoring, management and rehabilitation within the PCCC TUMRA area.


Project Publications
Final Report Vol 1
Final Report Vol 2
NESP TWQ Project 2.3.4 Progress Report 1
Progress Report 1
Progress Report 2
Project 2.3.4 Journal Cover 1
Journal Article
Journal Article
Journal Article
Journal Article



Problem Statements


This program builds capacity of GDC Rangers and local citizens for monitoring, managing and rehabilitating estuarine wetland sea country within the PCCC TUMRA, Southern GBR. The PCCC is the 5th largest TUMRA of its kind. Estuarine wetlands are an integral component of sea country, comprising sites of immense cultural heritage significance, including middens, fish traps, and traditional fishery resources. Estuarine wetlands also provide essential ecosystem services that protect the GBR, including water quality improvement. But, shoreline habitats within estuaries of the southern GBR have been badly damaged by repeated, recent extreme flood events. Existing anthropogenic stressors reduce the recovery potential of these impacted estuarine wetlands, reducing ecosystem resilience to future climatic stress events. Estuarine wetland repair is a priority for improving GBR water quality. However, there are no existing national strategies for prioritizing sites of estuarine wetland rehabilitation, to minimize anthropogenic stressors that maximize water quality improvement and other ecosystem services. A whole-of-system assessment is necessary, incorporating socio-cultural, ecological, and economic considerations, to inform cost-effective, successful investment in shoreline habitat rehabilitation.

How Research Addresses Problem

We will partner Traditional Owners, local citizens, scientists and NRM agencies to develop a MMP that identifies, prioritizes and details estuarine wetland repair strategies using ecological assessments, Traditional Owner values and traditional knowledge, along with regional NRM and DoE priorities. To achieve this, Traditional Owner Rangers will be trained in the MangroveWatch program, with data assessment contributed by JCU scientists. Traditional knowledge and cultural heritage values will be incorporated into ecological assessments for a holistic view of estuarine wetland condition, values and threats. These data will inform development of the MMP including mitigation strategies. A series of workshops will be held involving Traditional Owners, local citizens, scientists and NRM agencies to develop this strategic approach to estuarine wetland management and repair. GDC and rangers will take the lead in the practical implementation of the strategy to protect and enhance estuarine wetland sea country. The MMP development process will build capacity of Indigenous Rangers to monitor, assess, manage and rehabilitate estuarine wetlands within their PCCC TUMRA region. This outcome will have ongoing immense benefits for water quality improvement within the southern GBR region.

This project will provide a blueprint for how citizen science partnerships can be used for environmental monitoring in the GBR region; as a cost-effective and socially beneficial way for undertaking long-term monitoring required in similar monitoring programs throughout the Great Barrier Reef region.

Alignment with NESP Research Priorities

1. Reducing water quality Impacts: Identify and prioritise practical management actions capable of protecting and improving water quality in the Great Barrier Reef region g. Methods for assessing cumulative impacts from human activities and measures/approaches for ensuring a net environmental benefit

2. Water quality Monitoring and Reporting

a. Developing effective and cost-effective catchment and marine water quality indicators, thresholds and sub-lethal health-indicators for key marine organisms and processes in support of the Reef Integrated Monitoring Program

b. Use of citizen science in monitoring ecosystem health and connectivity, GBR water quality
and/or catchment runoff to the GBR.

7. Supporting traditional co-management.


Project Keywords

Water quality; Indigenous Ranger capacity; Estuarine repair; Enhanced ecosystem resilience; Citizen scientist monitoring.


Project Funding

This project is jointly funded through JCU, Fitzroy Basin Association, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Nipissing University, Gidarjil Development Corporation and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.


Project Map

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