Microplastics monitoring

INDIGENOUS RANGERS LEAD MICROPLASTICS PROJECT

1 FEB 2023

Microplastics are now being monitored on beaches and in rivers and creeks in the Innisfail region as part of a larger project focused on improving the health of waterways.

Mamu Indigenous Rangers will be testing for microplastics at a number of sites, sharing their results with a national program and, where they can, looking for solutions to reduce plastic pollution.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are plastics that have broken up into very small particles in the environment, as well as plastic products like microbeads which are used in a range of cleaning, cosmetic and personal care items, or microfibres shed from clothing and other textiles like fishing nets.

Mamu Senior Ranger Francis Joyce said plastic pollution was one of the issues listed by traditional owners at community meetings last year when planning began for the waterway health project, which is being delivered in partnership with Terrain NRM.

Rangers have recently received training from AUSMAP, the Australian Microplastic Assessment Project team which records data collected by a network of researchers and citizen scientists to create a map of microplastic pollution hotspots around Australia. The information is helping to regulate industries and enabling communities and governments to develop better waste management systems.

“We’ll be setting up sampling areas, sieving sand, counting and categorising plastics,’’ Francis said.

Tracking plastics to their source

“Hopefully, further down the track, this data can tell a story. There’s also potential to track plastics to their source if a lot of the same kind of microplastics are detected.”

The Mamu Healthy Waterways Project includes monthly water sampling across the Johnstone River catchment, testing for nutrients, pesticides and suspended solids.

The project, which is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, is building on existing water quality monitoring in the region and combining science with cultural knowledge and values.

Environmental DNA sampling

Rangers have also received training in eDNA sampling.

“This kind of sampling will help us to determine whether our culturally significant species are present or absent in waterways and from there we can develop management plans,’’ Francis said.

Snapshots of waterway health

“All this information will give everyone a snapshot of waterway health and a better understanding to move towards solutions. By working together and building partnerships with organisations we can create a more sustainable future.”

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