The project involves researchers, led by PhD student Paula Cartwright of UWA’s Oceans Graduate School, measuring water quality and mapping marine habitats across the Exmouth Gulf and the Urala Creek coastline over an 18-month period.

“By conducting long-term studies of water quality we can assess, and therefore create a model to predict, the impact of seasonal changes and other weather events on marine habitat formation, including coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves,” Ms Cartwright said.

“For example, increased sediment due to a storm surge can reduce light in water, stunting coral and sea grass growth.

“Declining marine water quality is recognised as one of the most significant threats to the longterm health and resilience of nearshore marine habitats.”

The water quality is being collected and analysed using a combination of laboratory analysis and in-situ analysis, to measure salinity, temperature, pH levels, turbidity, chlorophyll-a and dissolved organic matter.

K+S Salt Australia Managing Director Gerrit Gödecke said he was pleased to be partnering with the University of Western Australia.

“K+S is delighted to support leading research taking place in Western Australia,” said Mr Gödecke.

“Ms Cartwright’s research will help to fill the current knowledge gap on how fluctuating water quality affects coastal habitats.

“As well as forming part of K+S Salt Australia’s environmental analysis for the Ashburton Salt project development, we look forward to results contributing to greater scientific knowledge of the region for the benefit of the community.”

As part of the partnership, K+S Salt Australia is providing funding towards Paula’s research including 18 field trips, laboratory costs and the purchase several monitoring instruments including an EXO Sonde (which can measure salinity, temperature, pH, turbidity, chlorophyll-a and dissolved organic matter) and a dissolved oxygen meter.

The research team comprises staff and post-graduate students from both The University of Western Australia and Curtin University, and is being overseen by Dr Mick O’Leary and Dr Nicola Browne.

The research project, which commenced in October 2018, will run until February 2020.

K+S Salt Australia Managing Director Gerrit Gödecke with PhD student Paula Cartwright of UWA’s Oceans Graduate School