OzFish Unlimited and TARFish have partnered with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania to harness the local knowledge and expertise of fishers, boaters, divers and paddlers to help monitor Tasmania’s disappearing and endangered giant kelp forests. Kelp Tracker is part of a research project that invites waterway users to share (or ‘log’) their sightings of endangered and disappearing giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) in Tasmania. Sightings are then verified by kelp scientists and over time this ‘citizen science’ data will help to create a map of the remaining giant underwater forests. This will then allow scientists to 1) locate and study the remnant giant kelp, 2) identify patches that might harbour warm water-tolerant kelp, and 3) locate areas that might be suitable for habitat restoration. Dense giant kelp forests were previously a conspicuous and iconic feature of the Tasmanian coast, but the loss of 95% of these giant underwater forests over the past several decades has seen them nationally listed as an endangered marine community. The decline of giant kelp forests in eastern Tasmania is associated with increased influence of warm and nutrient-poor East Australian Current water. Despite widespread loss of giant kelp forests in Tasmania, scattered individuals and patches of giant kelp still remain, but there are few records of the locations of these remaining giants. This lack of data makes it difficult to sample the remaining forests, and also makes it challenging to track their decline or growth over time. By harnessing local knowledge and observations from fishers and other waterway users in Tasmania (and also Victoria and South Australia where some giant kelp also still remains) this app will generate data to start mapping the distribution and health of these endangered underwater giants.
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