Water Matters - Issue 21
The 21st edition of Wetlands Australia has just been published online.
Lindsay Island in Victoria - one of the sites monitored.
Photo: John Baker, DSEWPaC
This twice-a-year publication brings together stories, information and updates about wetlands conservation, management and education from around the country, with contributions from community groups, governments, researchers and others.
This edition of Wetlands Australia includes several feature articles on droughts and floods.
The Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre reports on the response to rewetting of arid floodplain wetlands following extensive drought. Vegetation monitoring has revealed that environmental watering may have enabled wetlands to respond more favourably to the 2010-11 flood.
At the Little Waterhouse Lake Ramsar site in Tasmania, significant increases were observed of the populations of some fish and insect species, following a large flood which broke the Millenium drought.
The community organisation, Nature Glenelg Trust, is starting to restore wetlands on private land in the southern border zone of South Australia and Victoria. Individual agreements are being negotiated with land owners to return water to drained wetlands, followed by revegetation (where required) and monitoring of the ecological recovery of sites.
To stay informed about the latest in wetlands management, subscribe to the Wetlands Australia mailing list now to receive notification of future editions.
Little Waterhouse Lake.
Photo: Michelle McAulay, DSEWPaC
Mangroves on tidal mudflat.
Photo: Shane Cridland, DSEWPaC
Wetlands play an important role in landscape function, including cycling of carbon, water and nutrients, food and fibre production, water purification, regulation of water flows, provision of habitats, and tourism and recreation services.
The role of wetlands in carbon sequestration and storage has generally been underestimated. Wetlands cover only about six to nine per cent of the Earth's surface, but contain about 35 per cent of global terrestrial carbon. Clearing or drainage of wetlands can lead to large releases of stored organic carbon to the atmosphere. An issues paper on The role of wetlands in the carbon cycle has been developed by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, in consultation with the Wetlands and Waterbirds Taskforce, a working group of the Council of Australian Governments that is responsible for issues relating to wetland management in Australia.
The paper considers the role of wetlands in carbon cycling, the potential of various types of wetlands to sequester carbon, the implications of climate change for wetland services and mechanisms to promote protection and restoration of wetlands for multiple benefits.
The paper is a resource available to wetland managers, researchers and those designing climate protection and natural resource programs.
The paper is available at: Issues paper - The role of wetlands in the carbon cycle
An Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit has been prepared in collaboration with states and territories as a set of good practice tools designed for identifying and understanding the importance of aquatic ecosystems.
Aquatic ecosystems are collectively the wet parts of the environment. They can be rivers, streams, swamps, lakes, estuaries, marine systems, and underground aquifers. They have biodiversity values as well as resource values and provide many services to the environment and humankind. These can be provisional (food and water), regulatory (floods, droughts), supporting (soil formation, nutrient cycling) and cultural (recreational, spiritual).
Identifying and understanding the importance of aquatic ecosystems is a difficult and time-consuming process. Some tools to do this have been developed in Australia by different authorities and researchers, but until now there has not been a nationally consistent framework for mapping and classifying aquatic ecosystems, identifying high ecological value aquatic ecosystems (HEVAE) through the systematic application of ecological criteria, delineating and describing aquatic ecosystems, and assessing their ecological condition.
The Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit is online at: Aquatic ecosystems
Murray-Darling Basin to benefit from Environmental Watering
The Murray-Darling Basin rivers and wetlands and its thousands of animals and plants will benefit from as much as 1,449 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water in the coming year. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office's watering options for the basin outline a strategic approach to ensure the water provides benefits to the areas that need it most.
Environmental watering is designed to support the basin's rivers and wetlands, some of international importance, which provide breeding sites and habitat for water birds and migratory birds. Decisions on environmental watering will be made throughout the year depending on seasonal, operational and management conditions at the time. For some parts of the basin river flows will be increased to mimic more natural flows to support the wetlands, riverbanks and floodplains and in some cases, a decision will be made not to provide water to sites if they require a natural drying phase.
Water may also be pumped to high priority wetland sites to support salinity management to benefit native fish. Potential sites to be targeted include: the Gwydir Wetlands, Macquarie Marshes and North Redbank wetlands in NSW; Gunbower Forest in Victoria; and the Coorong and Lower Lakes in South Australia.
Flows will also be considered in the north to the south of the basin for many of its rivers such as the Macintyre, Namoi, Macquarie, Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Broken and Murray. Annual water use options 2012-13 reports and factsheets for basin catchments can be viewed at publications webpage.
Commonwealth environmental water is planned and delivered in partnerships, such as with state government agencies, catchment management authorities, local community groups, landholders and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Stakeholders and local community groups are also able to bring forward options for environmental water use, and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office encourages feedback or advice.
The Murrumbidgee River.
Photo: Tom Smith, DSEWPaC
Lake Alexandrina, Coorong, SA.
Photo: Nerida Sloane, DSEWPaC
To contact the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office please call 1800 218 478 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also subscribe to their mailing list. Commonwealth environmental water newsletters can be viewed online.
Royal Spoonbills in Coorong National Park.
Photo: Paul Wainwright, DSEWPaC
A new online Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Atlas (GDE Atlas), funded by the National Water Commission and hosted by the Bureau of Meteorology, presents the first-ever comprehensive picture of Australia's groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
The project is part of the Australian Government's substantial investment under the Raising National Water Standards Program to improving groundwater management.
Groundwater has frequently been considered our water resource safety net in the face of a highly variable climate, growing demands from population growth and the pressures of development. However, increased groundwater use also places pressure on those wetlands and ecosystems that depend on groundwater for their survival.
The GDE Atlas is a tool to assist the consideration of ecosystem groundwater requirements in natural resource management, including water planning and environmental impact assessment.
The atlas would helps address groundwater knowledge gaps and progress reforms agreed to under the National Water Initiative, providing vital information for water planners and managers to use when weighing up how to allocate our precious water resources. The Atlas was developed by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, with project consultancy services provided by Sinclair Knight Merz, and Cohga, and vital inputs from state and territory water agencies. The atlas can be accessed on the Bureau of Meteorology website.