Research on Roebuck Bay
BENTHIC FAUNA SURVEY
Researcher Professor Theunis Piersma
Project Description Benthos monitoring on Roebuck Bay has been underway since 1997. Samples of fauna living in the vast mudflats are collected for identification and analysis from three sites each month. This helps bring understanding of shorebirds of the region and the habitat in general.
Project Partners University of Groningen, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Broome Bird Observatory, Roebuck Bay Working Group, Department of Environment and Conservation.
Project Funders University of Groningen,Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.
BUSH BIRD STUDIES
Researcher Broome Bird Observatory
Project Description The Broome region is home to over 300 species of birds, most of which are not shorebirds. The research focus is on “bush birds” in the locality of Broome.
Project Partners Global Flyway Network, Australasian Wader Studies Group.
Researcher Australasian Wader Studies Group – Broome Expedition.
Project Description Every year members of the Australasian Wader Studies Group are joined by scientists and enthusiasts from across the globe for a three week study tour of Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach. An intensive program of trapping, measuring, banding and flagging takes place along with other studies for research projects.
Project Partners Global Flyway Network, Broome Bird Observatory, Roebuck Bay Working Group.
SHOREBIRD LIFE CYCLE STUDIES
Researcher Professor Theunis Piersma,
Chris Hassell (Global Flyway Network), Adrian Boyle, Matt Slaymaker (Australasian Wader Studies Group)
Project Description How long do shorebirds live? What are their movements? What conditions might effect these aspects of the lives of migratory shorebirds? How are shorebirds responding to changes on the flyway? How will they respond to climate change? Scientists are conducting long term research to find answers to these questions and much more.
Project Partners Global Flyway Network, Australasian Wader Studies Group, Broome Bird Observatory, Roebuck Bay Working Group, Wetlands International.
Project Funders Global Flyway Network.
Researcher Chris Hassell, Professor Theunis Piersma.
At regular intervals across the year, shorebirds are counted around Roebuck Bay. These counts help to keep us up to date with roost choices, movement patterns and a general overview of population composition.
Project Partners Global Flyway Network, Australasian Wader Studies Group, Broome Bird Observatory, Wetlands International.
Project Funders Global Flyway Network.
SHOREBIRD DISTURBANCE TRENDS
Researcher Broome Bird Observatory
Project Description Shorebirds are highly susceptible to disturbance at roost sites from predators and human activities such driving vehicles on the beach, unleashed dogs, birds of prey and helicopter overflying. Learning and understanding more about the patterns of disturbance and their frequency will help us to conserve the shorebirds of Roebuck Bay.
Postdoctoral researcher Dr Sora M. Estrella
School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia.
Project Description “The effects of nutrient enrichment and toxic Lyngbya blooms on benthic invertebrates and migratory shorebird communities of the Roebuck Bay Ramsar site.”
North-western Australia is the main region for shorebirds on the continent and Roebuck Bay is one of the principle sites for migratory shorebirds in this region. The importance of Roebuck Bay appears to relate to the incredibly high diversity and biomass of benthic invertebrates, which places this tropical intertidal area among the richest mudflats in the world. In fact Roebuck Bay was designated as a Wetland of International Importance in 1990 under the Ramsar Convention (1971), and it currently ranks in the top eight shorebird migratory stop-over sites in the world. However, previous studies in Roebuck Bay indicate a developing issue with nutrient enrichment.
A common effect of nutrient enrichment is that it can significantly alter biodiversity, producing shifts in the composition of primary producers’ and favouring for example, cyanobacterium blooms. In fact, since 2005 outbreaks of the cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula have been recorded in Roebuck Bay, and the extent and biomass of these blooms has been increasing mostly every year. In February 2009 Lyngbya was recorded within the Roebuck Bay Ramsar site for the first time. However, it is unknown if Lyngbya blooms are affecting the shorebirds and macroinvertebrate populations.
The main aims of the project “Effects of nutrient enrichment and toxic Lyngbya blooms on benthic invertebrates-and migratory shorebird communities of Roebuck Bay Ramsar site”, i) determine the extent, duration and intensity of the cyanobacteria blooms in Roebuck Bay and endeavour to identify triggers, ii) examine the impacts of Lyngbya on benthic invertebrate diversity and foodwebs of shorebirds, iii) recommend management actions to control/limit the effects of Lyngbya blooms, and iv) raise community awareness of risks of Lyngbya on human and ecosystem health.
Project Partners: The University of Western Australia, DEC Broome, Yawurru Rangers, Broome Bird Observatory, Australasian Wader Studies Group, Roebuck Bay Working Group, Andrew Storey (UWA), Theunis Piersma (NIOZ and University of Groningen), Grant Pearson (Bennelongia Pty Ltd), Tom de Silva (UWA), Chris Hassell (Global Flyway Network), Dr John Curran, Grant and Clare Morton, Adrian Boyle (AWSG), NRM Rangelands, Broome Hovercraft, Broome Aviation and many volunteers.
Project Funders: Rangelands NRM (WA), Department of Environment and Conservation, Broome Port Authority, Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (Postdoctoral grant).
WATER QUALITY and HYDROLOGY
Researcher PhD researcher, Gayan Lakendra Gunaratne under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Ryan Vogwill , Assoc. Prof. Matt Hipsey and Assoc. Prof. Ryan Lowe.
Project Description ”‘The effects of altered hydrological regimes on water quality and nutrient delivery to a sub-tropical coastal transitional wetland.”
Wetlands are biologically diverse transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic environments, characterised by shallow water overlying waterlogged soil and interspersed with submerged or emergent vegetation. The coastal watershed and wetland under investigation in this study is Roebuck Bay, near Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It was designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention in June 1990. It has rich biodiversity and biomass of benthic invertebrates (the primary food source of shorebirds) making it a crucial stop on the Asia-Pacific flyway. Anthropogenic pressures, mainly land and water use activities in the growing shire of Broome are contributing to many environmental problems – hence threaten the ecosystem. The discharge of treated waste water effluent, fertilisers, pesticides and other compounds all threaten the sensitive ecosystems of Roebuck Bay due to increased nutrient influx to the wetland. In recent years, blooms of Lyngbya majusculahave risen in frequency and severity leading to concerns for the effects on the local population and environment. One of the major emerging issues is the town, acting as a major source of anthropogenic nutrients into the ecosystem. Presence and growth of the town of Broome on the shores of Roebuck bay has altered the hydrology of the coastal wetland. This project will deliver a strategic management approach in facilitating protection and restoration where required of the Roebuck bay wetlands by providing key information of eco-hydrology, hydrodynamics and nutrient dynamics.
Key outcomes of the research will include a better understanding of:
1. the effects of urbanisation, stormwater drainage design and wastewater management on hydrological processes associated with nutrient discharge to Roebuck Bay.
2. the effects of the anthropogenic nutrient loading to the in the Roebuck Bay wetland and the spatial and temporal distribution of Lyngbya spp.
3. the hydrodynamics of nutrient flushing of a coastal eco-system.
4. the potential effects of future population growth and tourism on wetland hydrology and water quality.
These findings will be used to help understand the current condition, predict changes in the terrestrial environment and identify potential impacts on the marine environment as a result of nutrient delivery, large-scale land use change and catchment-scale hydrological changes within the context of human-induced activities.
Project partners The University of Western Australia, Department of Environment and Conservation, Roebuck Bay Working Group.
Project funders The University of Western Australia, Department of Environment and Conservation.