Eubenangee Swamp National Park
State: QLD | Hectares: 180 | IUCN Category: II | Partners: Environmental Protection Agency
Eubenangee Swamp National Park has been described as the most important park in the Wet Tropic lowlands. It protects all but the last 20 hectares of Australia's endangered freshwater mangroves, and plays a crucial role in conserving the region's birds and wildlife.
In 2002, the Australian Government provided almost $340,000 through the National Reserve System Program to help the Queensland Government add a crucial stretch of land to the park. The 180 hectare block stretches along the northern edge of the park, and takes in one of the swamp's most important water sources - Dinner Creek.
Eubenangee Swamp lies in one of the wettest parts of Queensland, but as a changing climate casts doubt on rainfall levels, safeguarding its water resources has become vital. Before the extra land was purchased, most of the water from Dinner Creek was being channelled away from the swamp, straight into the nearby Alice River. As years got dryer, park ranger Les Jackson says the bypass was taking a noticeable toll on the swamp.
"The vegetation wasn't getting enough water and some of it was starting to go yellow and dry out, so we needed to restore the flows from the creek," Les says.
"Owning the extra land allowed us to put in a weir to fix the problem, and the plants have come back beautifully now that they're getting a proper drink."
Securing the swamp's water source was fairly straightforward, but buffering its habitat against the rising temperatures and unpredictable weather that climate change is expected to bring presents a more complex challenge.
Les and his team are working hard to reduce the strain from threats such as weeds, so the whole environment is more resilient in the face of change. The Dinner Creek property has been a big help, allowing them to tackle invasive weeds at their source.
"We were getting taken over by noxious weeds like hymenachne and pondapple, which were washing down Dinner Creek and into the swamp," Les says. "They're deadly for wetlands, but until we owned the land upstream we were stuck treating the symptoms, not the cause.
"As soon as we took over the Dinner Creek property we started spraying and injecting to knock the weeds out at their source. Now things are looking great - we've just about eradicated pondapple, and we're making great progress in spraying back the hymenachne."
As well as being vital to the health of Eubenangee Swamp, the Dinner Creek property protects remnants of rare native vegetation such as sedges, paperbarks and reeds. Linking these remnants to the rest of the park has extended the habitat range for rare species such as the vulnerable crimson finch and the stately black-necked stork, and increased the functionality of the whole landscape.
The property's degraded grassland is being rehabilitated, with stock removed and weeds kept under control. Parts of the land are being revegetated with native trees, which Les and his team grow in the park's nursery from local seedlings.
The park's fire regime has been extended to include the Dinner Creek property, with prescribed burns carried out to help the swamp grasses, sedges and paperbarks thrive.
"Having the extra bit of land has made it easier to look after the rest of the park," Les says. "The new boundary is much easier to patrol when we're burning, and having control over the water flow from Dinner Creek and the weeds upstream has made a big difference.
"We can treat the whole area as one ecosystem now, keeping it healthy and resilient into the future."