Lake Albacutya Ramsar site Ecological Character Description

Cibilic, A. & White, L., 2010

for
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

About the document

An Ecological Character Description describes the ecological character of a wetland at the time of its listing as a Wetland of International Importance. The Ecological Character Description is a fundamental management tool for site managers, forming the basis of management planning and action as well as including guidance on site monitoring requirements to detect changes in the ecological character of the site.

Lake Albacutya is located in semi-arid Victoria, approximately 400 km northwest of Melbourne. The site is a large subterminal lake of the internally draining Wimmera River. The 5659 ha lake fills intermittently when prolonged high rainfall in the upper catchment creates large flows in the Wimmera River, allowing water to reach Lake Albacutya. With a full capacity of 290 GL, Lake Albacutya retains water for several years when full, emptying slowly through evaporation and seepage if no further inflows are received.

Lake Albacutya is characterised by alternating wet and dry phases and is capable of supporting climax communities in both states. When dry, the lake supports grasslands and terrestrial fauna. When the lake holds water, an aquatic community develops which may support breeding waterbird populations. There is an extensive Eucalypt woodland surrounding the lake, dominated by River Red Gum which is maintained by the lake's unique hydrological regime and provide habitat for waterbirds and the nationally vulnerable Regent Parrot which occurs at the site.

The ecological character of a wetland is the sum of all the components, processes and services of that wetland. Ecosystem components are physical, chemical and biological parts of a wetland, from large-scale to very small-scale (e.g. habitat, species and genes). Ecosystem processes are the dynamic forces within an ecosystem. They include all those processes that occur between organisms and within and between populations and communities, including interactions with the non-living environment, that result in existing ecosystems and bring about changes in ecosystems over time. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems.

This document describes the critical components, processes and services for the Lake Albacutya Ramsar site. Four critical components of morphology, surface water, flora (eucalypt woodland) and fauna (waterbirds and threatened species) are described. These are linked respectively to four processes of geomorphology, hydrology, recruitment/regeneration and migration/reproduction. Benefits and services include waterbird habitat, support for threatened species, agricultural grazing, recreation and education. Limits of acceptable change for the Ramsar site have been proposed for all critical components, processes and benefits and services based on information available at the time of writing.

This document also describes the current Ramsar listing criteria met by the site, the key threats and knowledge gaps for Lake Albacutya Ramsar site. Recommended monitoring needs and communication messages are also provided.

Further information on what Ecological Character Descriptions are and how critical components, processes and services are identified is available in the National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands – Module 2 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands – Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia.