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Environmental expert puts Moreton Bay under the microscope

Moreton Bay - the jewel in the crown of south-east Queensland - has been put under the microscope in a new publication written by leading marine scientist, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee from Bond University

Environmental History and Ecology of Moreton Bay, which is published by CSIRO Publishing, delves into the geological formation of Moreton Bay, Indigenous and European history of the region, and the flora and fauna of the region.

Dr McPhee said Moreton Bay was a unique waterway, rich in fauna and steeped in history.

“It is the southern-most limit of dugong populations, and discernible coral reefs on the Australian east coast,” he said.

“It is also a melting pot of tropical and temperate species, which supports diverse and vibrant commercial and recreational fisheries,” said Dr McPhee. 

“This unique waterway cradles a region that is experiencing the most rapid urbanisation in Australia.”

Dr McPhee said that one of the most significant events in the environmental history of Moreton Bay since European settlement, was the loss of extensive oyster reefs as a result of flooding of the catchments newly cleared by European agriculture techniques in the 1890s.

“We now know that oyster reefs are one of the most threatened coastal habitats in the world, and our local sub-tidal oyster reefs are functionally extinct,” he said.

“If these habitat losses were occurring now, they would no doubt be the number one environmental issue on our radar.

“However, we suffer from generational amnesia. Unless you unearth the past like I have, it is difficult to understand what was lost during the early period of European settlement.”

Associate Professor Daryl McPhee was inspired to write Environmental History and Ecology of Moreton Bay after 30 years of fishing and undertaking marine research in Moreton Bay.

“I have seen remarkable changes in Moreton Bay with my own eyes over that time - some good, some not so good,” said Dr McPhee.

“It is not that long ago that coral in Moreton Bay was still being dredged to support the local construction industry.”

Dr McPhee said the fireweed bloom in the late 1990s was a wake-up call for government and the community on the water quality of Moreton Bay and thankfully led to substantial government investment in water quality improvements.

“We still have a way to go, with continued restoration of upper catchments and the restoration of sub-tidal oyster reefs being high priority issues identified in the book,” he said.

“We need to stop thinking that the Moreton Bay Marine Park is the saviour of Moreton Bay.

“It is an important piece of legislation, but it cannot address the impacts of the growing population in the catchments or provide effective support for habitat and catchment restoration.”  

Environmental History and Ecology of Moreton Bay can be purchased on the CSIRO publishing website.

The book was officially launched last night (Wednesday 23 August, 2017) in Brisbane by former Father of the Australian senate and proud Brisbane resident, Hon. Ron Boswell.

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