Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Historical perspectives on the mangroves of Kakadu National Park

Richard Lucas A G , C. Max Finlayson B C , Renee Bartolo D , Kerrylee Rogers E , Anthea Mitchell A , Colin D. Woodroffe E , Emma Asbridge A and Emilie Ens F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of New South Wales, High Street, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia.

B Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW 2604, Australia.

C IHE Delft, Institute for Water Education, PO Box 3015, NL-2601 DA Delft, Netherlands

D Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, Department of the Environment, GPO Box 461, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia.

E School of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

F Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email: richard.lucas@unsw.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF17065
Submitted: 7 March 2017  Accepted: 22 August 2017   Published online: 5 December 2017

Abstract

Mangroves are a major ecosystem within Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory, providing coastal protection, high biodiversity and an important resource for Aboriginal people. In the late Holocene (from c. 6000 before present), mangroves occupied much of the estuarine and coastal plains, but their range has subsequently contracted to the main river systems (the West Alligator, South Alligator and East Alligator Rivers, and the Wildman River), tributary creeks and offshore islands (Field and Barrow Islands). On the basis of maps of mangrove extent generated from aerial photography (1950, 1975, 1984 and 1991), compact airborne spectrographic imagery (CASI; 2002), light detection and ranging (LIDAR; 2011) and RapidEye data (2014 onward), changes in net area have been minor but significant redistribution has occurred, with this being attributed to both inland intrusion and seaward colonisation of mangroves. The greatest area changes have been associated with lower-stature mangroves dominated by Avicennia marina and Sonneratia alba, as determined from these datasets. Aerial surveys, conducted using a remote piloted aircraft (RPA) and fixed wing aircraft in September 2016, showed dieback of mangroves, with spaceborne RapidEye observations suggesting this occurred between late 2015 and 2016 and at the same time as the extensive mangrove losses reported in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Given the recent dieback and the associated need to better monitor and protect mangroves and proximal ecosystems in the World Heritage- and Ramsar-listed Kakadu National Park, the study recommends the development and implementation of a robust and long-term monitoring system that better utilises existing and ongoing earth observation and ground data, and is supported by a national approach.

Additional keywords: climate change, ecology, ecosystem processes, environmental monitoring.


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Woodroffe, C. D., Thom, B. G., and Chappell, J. (1985). Development of widespread mangrove swamps in mid-Holocene times in northern Australia. Nature 317, 711–713.
Development of widespread mangrove swamps in mid-Holocene times in northern Australia.CrossRef |

Woodroffe, C. D., Chappell, J. M. A., Thorn, B. G., and Wallensky, E. (1986). Geomorphology of the South Alligator tidal river and plains, Northern Territory. In ‘Coastal and Tidal Wetlands of the Australian Monsoon Region’. (Eds K. N. Bardsley, J. D. S. Davie, and C. D. Woodroffe.) North Australian Research Unit Mangrove Monograph, Vol. 1, pp. 3–15. (Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.)

Woodroffe, C. D., Chappell, J., and Thom, B. G. (1988). Shell middens in the context of estuarine development, South Alligator River, Northern Territory. Archaeology in Oceania 23, 95–103.
Shell middens in the context of estuarine development, South Alligator River, Northern Territory.CrossRef |



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