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$200k for mangrove death study: NT govt

AAP logoAAP 2/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

The Northern Territory government has given a $200,000 grant to Charles Darwin University for urgent research into the "severe death" of mangroves and the threats posed by climate change.

Environment and natural resources minister Lauren Moss says the study will focus on the "devastating impact" of global warming on mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where there's been almost 1000km of dieback in the past year.

She said the NT fishing industry relies on mangrove ecosystems and healthy coastlines.

"Fishing is the lure of the Territory and mangroves provide important breeding and feeding grounds for many species of fish, including the highly sought after barramundi and mud crabs," Ms Moss said.

CDU Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods professor Lindsay Hutley says the "shocking" damage has likely been driven by climate change.

"We've seen three or four years of very low rainfall in that region, coupled with some fairly extreme heat events ... and high sea surface temperatures," he said.

Prof Hutley described it as "dire" but noted there's been complete mangrove mortality in some areas of the Gulf while other blocks have survived.

"It's a very unusual event, possibly globally unique," he said.

"It's going to take some years to untangle the causality and develop some management strategies... we need to act now to asses the risks of future occurrences."

Around 18 per cent or 11,000km of Australia's coastline is lined with 52 species of mangrove. The NT boasts more than one-third of this.

Prof Hutley fears the problem could spread to other regions as the climate of north Australia undergoes fundamental climate change in the future.

"We need to know what potential threats these (mangrove) systems may face in the next 50 years or more," he said.

The cash will be used to leverage at least $500,000 in additional research funding from the federal government.

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