Researchers visited the estuaries of the Flinders, Gilbert and Mitchell Rivers of north Queensland in November 2016 as part of their investigation to determine which southern Gulf rivers are most important for migratory birds and fisheries.
Project leader, Professor Michele Burford from Griffith University, was part of the crew and explained the importance of the information collected during this first field trip.
“We collected samples of banana prawns and sediment from each river, to see if the rivers vary from each other in their trace element fingerprints. These fingerprints will hopefully allow us to see how many prawns come from each river and which rivers are most important for the banana prawn fishery”.
“We also took samples to measure the algae living in the mudflats to quantify estuarine mudflat ‘productivity’. These algae are the base of the foodweb for species such as migratory shorebirds and underpin mudflat ecology”.
It was found that the mudflats of all three rivers were equally productive but that the Mitchell River has a higher area of mudflat than the other two rivers, which may mean more productivity in that river.
Data is also being gathered to determine the economic value of freshwater flows in these rivers, and the next field trip is planned for November this year.
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