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MangroveWatch is a citizen science program involving paternships with First Nations Peoples, landcare groups, environmental education centres, local CAFNEC volunteers, and tidal wetland experts. Since 2017, we have annually monitored mangrove health throughout the Wet Tropics Region allowing us to compare how it changes each year. In 2021, we expanded the program beyond data collection to include the development of estuary-specific Local Action Plans. Guided by citizen science data, these Local Action Plans are community-led and CAFNEC-supported. By uniting the local community and CAFNEC’s partners in mangrove protection, we aim to empower people to take action and feel a responsbility for their local estauries.    


In 2017, CAFNEC established a MangroveWatch program in Cairns to gather long term data on local estuaries and engage locals in the act of collecting and promoting the data as citizen scientists. Mangroves are vital ecosystems — they sequester more carbon than any terrestrial forest type and they do it 50x faster. They act as nurseries for fish, homes for various species, water filters, and buffers that protect our coasts.

In Far North Queensland we have the most diverse mangrove systems in the country, yet, dieback events, as seen in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and land clearing developments indicate that our coastal ecosystems are not invincible and certainly at huge risk in a changing climate and developing world.

Before the Cairns Chapter was started there was a major monitoring gap between Rockhampton in south-east Queensland and Princess Charlotte Bay in Cape York. MangroveWatch is important because we cannot protect and respond to disturbances in these vital ecosystems without knowledge of how they are changing. Long term monitoring from a baseline gives us a sound indicator of change over time. Volunteers are essential to the success of this research — their time and local knowledge of the region make Cairns MangroveWatch possible. By donating their time community volunteers injected $15,248 of labour into the project in the past year (based on the dollar replacement value hourly rate of $41.75 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics) demonstrating how citizen science in the non-profit sector can boost data collection and improve research.

Since its inception in 2017 the Cairns MangroveWatch chapter has gone from strength to strength. In 2019 we were stoked for the MangroveWatch Cairns Chapter to receive continued funding! Not only that, we are now working alongside MangroveWatch, South Cape York Catchments, Great Barrier Reef Legacy and Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation’s Yirrganydji Rangers to see a whole lot more coastal monitoring happening as a part of an expanded Far North Queensland MangroveWatch Program. This is thanks to Citizen Science funding by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The expanded program will see all Wet Tropics major estuaries monitored by CAFNEC and our partners, gathering vital data on the health of our estuaries with some areas being recorded for the first time ever. We have also begun working with the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways partnership to see that our MangroveWatch data be included in their annual report cards.

I participated in the MangroveWatch program as a volunteer in 2022! It was exciting to learn more about our local tidal wetlands and do my part to raise awareness about their importance. Now, as the Projects Officer, I am imspired by the volunteers and partners around me who are passionate, knowledgeable, and willing to be a voice for the mangroves!

– Shannon, Projects Officer


Mangrove Monitoring

We monitor 6 estauries across the Wet Tropics Region annually:

– Barron River

– Russell River

– Mulgrave River

– Johnstone River

– Moresby River

– Hinchinbrook Channel

Data is collected using the Shoreline Video Assessment Methods (SVAM). The data collected is analysed by Earthwatch Australia’s Tidal Wetlands Ecologist. This data is analysed and reported in the Wet Tropics Waterways Health Report Card .

Volunteer Roles

1. Skipper – drives the boat

2. Video Camera Operator – films the shoreline

3. GPS Operator – marks key observations on GPS

4. Photographer – takes photos

5. Observer – takes written notes


Local Action Plans

Local Action Plans are community driven, estuary specific plans for the protection of mangroves. Informed by citizen science data collected via CAFNEC’s MangroveWatch Program, the community discusses the value of mangroves in their local estauries and key threats to their health. After the disucssion, the community brainstorms ideas and chose projects that they can lead with the support of CAFNEC. 

Current Local Action Plans:

1. Mulgrave River:

– Two dedicated volunteers are teaching mangrove lessons at the local primary schools. This is a great way for kids to learn about the environment around them and how to care for it from a young age.

– Reducing bank erosion at Deeral.

2. Barron River:

– Revegetation of mangroves at Barr Creek

3. Hinchinbrook Channel:

– Revegetation of mangroves and reducing shoreline erosion at Oyster Point

– Buyback of land in Cardwell for mangrove rehabilitation


The local action plans are part of the Community Action Plan network funded by GBRF. To learn more about the various projects funded by GBRF across the Great Barrier Reef region, click HERE. To learn more about the Local Action Plans CAFNEC is doing within the Wet Tropics Region, scroll to the ‘Case Studies’ section on GBRF’s Community Action Plan page and click on ‘Wet Tropics Community Action Plan Case Study’.

Any volunteer under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who will be responsible for the welfare of the minor in their care for the duration of any CAFNEC events or activities.

Anyone who works, volunteers or participates in CAFNEC spaces or events must uphold our Code of Conduct.


For general inquiries contact get in touch with Shannon Bredeson at projects@nullcafnec.org.au or ring the office on 07 4036 1746


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This project is currently funded thanks to #CitizenScience Grants by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation along with The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. It is also proudly supported by the Queensland Government—Queensland Citizen Science Grants and Wet Tropics Management Authority Climate Action Grant. To establish the project the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC) have previously received funding from the Queensland Government via their Engaging Science grants, Cairns Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC), Cairns Regional Council, and Terrain NRM Natural Capital Grant.

We are proud to partner with volunteers, land care groups, and Indigenous ranger groups across Wet Tropics Estuaries and in the Cape. They generously provide their knowledge and resources to make the monitoring possible and enhance environmental stewardship opportunities in the region.

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