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New research looking at Seagrasses and Black swans

A research project is about to start on the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands looking at the relationship between seagrasses and black swan grazing.

The project, being undertaken by Masters student Caitlyn O’Dea from Edith Cowan University, will be conducted across three estuaries; the Swan-Canning, Leschenault and Vasse-Wonnerup.

“ This project aims to improve our understanding of the relationship between seagrasses and black swans within WA estuaries, specifically how various intensities of swan grazing pressures can influence the time it takes for seagrasses to recover” said Caitlyn.

“Another aim is to understand how this relationship may be influenced under increasing temperatures, particularly heat wave events which are expected to become more frequent and intense”.

Caitlyn will be installing swan exclusion structure at six sites within the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands this week.  The structures will be made out of garden irrigation polypipe have, and the design has been used successfully in other parts of world with no harm to wildlife.

“We needed to create structure that would exclude the swans but not cause any harm to them or other wildlife” said Caitlyn.

“By keeping the swans out of the enclosures we can measure seagrass density and recovery without swan grazing and compare these plots to other sites in the estuary”.

The project will contribute to the growing body of research on the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands over the last five years including five higher degree research projects.

“We are incredibly lucky to have the current research interest in the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands as it helps us better understand and manage this unique and special system” said Dr Kath Lynch, Project Manager of the Revitalising Geographe Waterways project.

“Caitlyn’s project is really important to understand the relationship between seagrasses and black swans” said Kath “as the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands support the largest number of breeding black swans in the state”.

Caitlyn’s project is being supervised by Associate Professor Kathryn McMahon who is a regular visitor to Busselton undertaking the annual Geographe Bay Keep Watch seagrass monitoring program, and co-supervised by Professor Paul Lavery.

For more information on this project please contact Caitlyn at

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