Directory of Important Wetlands

Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia - Information sheet

To save this report to your computer, use File/Save as, and use a .TXT file extension.
Return to search

Darling Anabranch Lakes - NSW020

Level of importance: National - Directory
Location: Darling Riverine Plains at 33 degrees 02' S to 33 degrees 35' S, 141 degrees 35' E to 142 degrees 09' E. Comprises Mindona Lake, Little Lake, Travellers Lake, Popio Lake, Popiltah Lake, Yelta Lake, Binjie Lake, Nialia Lake, Pine Lake, Rotten Lake, Warrawenia Lake, Nitchie Lake, Nearie Lake, Milkengay Lake and associated marginal vegetation. Located along the Great Anabranch of the Darling River approximately 80km north of Wentworth.
Biogeographic region: Murray Darling Depression.
Area: 269 000 ha.
Elevation: 40 - 60 m ASL.
Other listed wetlands in same aggregation: Not given
Wetland type: B2, B4, B14, B10, B13, B6
Criteria for inclusion: 1, 2, 5,
Site description:
Physical features:
The geology of the Darling Anabranch lakes consists of Quaternary sediments of friable to plastic finely laminated grey clay, silty clay, humic clay, grey palaeosols, locally with fine to medium sand, may include gypsite, gypsiferous clay and selnite crystals. Areas within Warrawenia, Popiltah and Popio Lakes also include unconsolidated to poorly consolidated sand lunettes of brown-red, yellow, grey, generally mobile quartz sand. All the Darling Anabranch lakes are surrounded on at least one side by undifferentiated lunettes which consist of poorly consolidated brown-red, yellow, grey quartz sand, silty clay, clay pellet aggregates, gypsiferous clay pellets, pale grey gypsite (kopi), older components, increasingly modified by pedogenesis, intercalated with red calcareous and gypsiferous palaeosols with calcrete glaebules, rhizoliths, locally capped with mobile well-sorted sand (Ray, 1997). The climate of the area is semi-arid with an annual average rainfall of 268mm. The temperature ranges from summer maximums of 33 degrees C and winter minimums of 5 degrees C (Central Mapping Authority, 1978d). The annual evaporation rate for this area is approximately 2 metres.
Hydrological features:
The Great Anabranch is a former channel of the Darling River. It was an ephemeral stream under unregulated conditions and flowed about every two out of three years in its upper reaches. Under conditions prior to river regulation the Anabranch lakes would fill and partly empty with the rising and receding floodwaters of the Darling River and the Anabranch (Irish, 1993). The dominant wetland features of the Anabranch are the large overflow lakes which occur along the middle reach. The shallow, extensive nature of the lakes and high evaporation rates ensure that none of the lakes retains water on a permanent basis, although some lakes retain water for up to 5 years. summer monsoonal rains in catchments to the far north and east generate floods which reach the Anabranch 2-3 months later. The three largest lakes, in particular, Mindona, Travellers and Popilta Lakes, provide significant flood mitigation and water can only reach the downstream lakes and flow to the lower reaches of the Anabranch after the upstream lakes have been filled (Lloyd, 1992). The establishment of the Menindee Lakes scheme to the north has to some extent mitigated the naturally erratic flows of the Darling Anabranch (Lloyd, 1992). Water flow in the Anabranch is affected by the regulation of water in the Darling River. The water in the Anabranch is regulated for stock and domestic purposes by a Water Trust.
Ecological features:
Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) woodland fringes the lakes with isolated Nitre Goosefoot (Chenopodium nitrariaceum) and Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta) and abundant grasses and forbs. The lunettes, which are well developed on the eastern sides of the lakes, support scattered Belah (Casuarina cristata), Mallee (Eucalyptus sp.) and White Cypress Pine (Callitris columellaris) with scattered Prickly Wattle (Acacia victoriae), Black Bluebush (Maireana pyramidata), Thorny Saltbush (Rhagodia spinescens), Ruby Saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa), and Sandhill Canegrass (Zygochloa paradoxa) with sparse grasses and other forbs (Walker, 1991). Some of the higher areas also support Spiny Lignum (Muehlenbeckia horrida) (Lloyd, 1992a). At the waters edge of many of the lakes small amounts of Red Water-milfoil (Myriophyllum verrucosum) and Austral Mudwort (Limosella australis) occur. Many of the lakes are opportunistically cropped following flooding. This and other management issues have been addressed in a Draft Plan of Management for the Great Anabranch of the Darling River.
Native fish species which occur in the lakes include the Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua), Murray Cod (Maccullochella peeli), Bony Bream (Nematalosa erebi), Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), Short-finned Eel (Anguilla australis) and, Freshwater Catfish (Tandanus tandanus). Aquatic invertebrates include Yabbies (Cherax destructor), and Floodplain Mussels (Velesunio ambiguus) (Lloyd, 1992). Fossil remains of extinct megafauna have also been found in the area.
Notable flora:
Benson (1989) considers that Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta) shrubland is vulnerable and inadequately conserved in NSW.
Notable fauna:
Nearie and Nitchie Lakes have significant diversity and density of the less common species of invertebrates (Lawler, undated). These wetlands provide extensive areas of productive waterbird habitat when inundated (King & Green 1993). The Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) and the Black-eared Miner (Manorina melanotis) which are considered to be endangered at a national level (Ne) have been recorded within the Anabranch region. The Australian Bustard (Ardeotis australis), Regent Parrot (Polytelis anthopeplus), Bush Thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius), and Kultarr (Antechinus langier) which are considered endangered at a state level (Se) have been recorded within the Darling Anabranch area. The Brolga (Grus rubicundus), Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis), Redthroat (Pyrrholaemus brunneus), Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa), Square-tailed Kite (Lophoictinia isura), Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon), Grey Falcon (Falco hypoleucos), Pink Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri), Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae), Gilbert?s Whistler (Pachycephala inornata) and, Southern Ningaui (Ningaui yvonneae) which are considered vulnerable at a state level (Sv) have been recorded within the Darling Anabranch area. The Great Egret (Ardea alba), Wimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Latham?s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii), and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) which are listed on both JAMBA and CAMBA, have been recorded within the Darling Anabranch lakes. The Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), White-bellied Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), and Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) which are listed on CAMBA have also been recorded within the Darling Anabranch lakes (Lloyd, 1992). Large numbers of Grey Teal (Anas gracilis) (27,000 in 1996) and Pink-eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) (12,400 in 1996) have been recorded in Travellers Lake (M. Maher, pers comm.).
Other Fauna:
Social and Cultural values:
The Darling River region supported a large Aboriginal population. Abundant resources attracted large Aboriginal groups which were less nomadic than those in higher rainfall areas (Fox, 1991). Aboriginal occupation of the Darling Anabranch area would have been greatest in the dunes of the Anabranch and hydrological transition areas between the lakes and the Anabranch. The lunettes of the Anabranch lakes contain numerous Aboriginal sites including shell middens, surface campsites and stone artefacts are common. Artefacts include stone flakes, grinding dishes and stones, axeheads, core stones, geometric microliths and adzes. Aboriginal burial sites are also present at several of the lakes as are stone arrangements (Lloyd, 1992). Control of flows in the Darling Anabranch began before 1885 when settlers constructed several dams along it and built a channel linking the Darling with Coonalhugga Creek near Lignum Swamp (Lloyd, 1992).
Land tenure:
On site: Most of the land is Western Lands leasehold with small areas of freehold, an important exception being Nearie Lake Nature Reserve managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Surrounding area: Western Land Leases and small areas of freehold land.
Current land use:
On site: Sheep and cattle grazing and cropping, except in nature reserve. Surrounding area: Sheep and cattle grazing and cropping.
Disturbance or threat:
Past/present: Lake-bed cropping, water regulation which changes natural flood regime and restricts migration of native fish species in some areas. Feral animal species include European Carp (Cyprinus carpio), cats, foxes, and rabbits.

Potential: No information
Conservation measures taken:
Lake Nearie is a nature reserve; Memorandum of Understanding between NPWS and the Anabranch Water Trust for management of water in Nearie Lake, Plan of Management for the Great Anabranch of the Darling River being developed with community consultation, interim management guidelines for Lake Nearie Nature Reserve. Various research projects and reports have focused on issues relating to the site such as effects of lake-bed cropping being undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Review of management for Menindee Lakes includes provision for ecological needs of Anabranch Lakes (M. Maher, pers. comm.).
Management authority and jurisdiction:
Department of Land and Water Conservation, landholders, and National Parks and Wildlife Service (Lake Nearie Nature Reserve). The Water Trust of the Great Anabranch of the Darling River manages flows in the Anabranch for stock and domestic uses (Lloyd, 1992).
Bek, P. (1991); Benson, J. (1989); Central Mapping Authority (1978d); Fox, M.D. (1991); Harriss, D. et al.. (1991); Helman, P. (1986); Helman, P. & Estella, P. (1983); Irish, J. (1993); King, A.M. & Green, D. (1993); Lawler, W. (undated); Lawler, W. (1991); Lloyd, P. (1992a); Murray-Darling Basin Commission (1987); National Parks & Wildlife Service (1988); Ray, H.N. (1997); Walker, P.J. (1991); Wettin, P. & White, G. (undated); Withers, P. (1991). See NSW Reference List
Compiler & date:
Geoffrey Winning & Michael Murray, Shortland Wetlands Centre, December 1992. Revised P. Bacon, Woodlots & Wetlands, 1995. Revised, Tania Laity, National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1998.
AWRC Division: Murray-Darling
AWRC Region:
AWRC Basin: