Preparing Geraldton for environmental change

September 6, 2012

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The Geraldton community is invited to offer insights from September 24 to 28 into how environmental change is affecting their region as part of a national study of coastal regional communities.

Murdoch University is partnering with the University of Tasmania and CSIRO to work on ‘An adaptation blueprint for coastal regional communities’, which has already seen data collected in St Helens (Tasmania) and Bowen (Queensland).

The project’s aim is to determine how communities, and especially marine industries, are impacted by environmental changes such as increasing ocean temperatures and storm-induced erosion. Researchers are also interested in how non-climate changes, such as mining, impact the community.

Professor Malcolm Tull, from the Murdoch Business School, said changes in the environment were likely to have significant effects on marine-related industries, making Geraldton an ideal location for research.

“Commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, aquaculture, fish processing, transport and other associated industries may be affected by changes to marine ecosystems, so it’s vital to get input from people at the source,” Professor Tull said.

“We’re interested in speaking with a broad range of people from fishers to local government workers and ultimately anyone interested in the effects of environmental change and the future wellbeing of the community.”

Professor Tull said researchers wanted to identify what changes were already occurring, as well as those that might occur in the future. By identifying both, tools could be developed to identify risks and increase the capacity of the community to cope with change.

“This research will enable industries, governing bodies and individuals to make informed decisions based on the best information available so as to maximise opportunities,” he said.

“We’ve already gathered interesting feedback from Queensland and Tasmania, which we’ll pool with Geraldton. Our hope is to create a blueprint for coastal communities to assess their own vulnerabilities and adaptation needs and develop plans to move forward.”

This study has been funded by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

Geraldton residents who wish to be involved should telephone researchers Mr Jay Shoesmith (0401 838 436) or Dr Sarah Metcalf (9360 7833) directly from September 17 to 21 to arrange a time to meet the following week.

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