National Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
Nunnock Swamp (NSW) - a hidden treasure perched on the escarpment
Sarah Ferguson, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)
Nunnock Swamp (Franz Peters)
Nunnock Swamp lies approximately 35 kilometres north east of Bombala within a forested range of hills in the Far South Coast hinterland, 55 kilometres inland from Bega, New South Wales. The swamp is an upland area of impeded drainage which lies within the Tantawangalo section of South East Forests National Park.
It covers more than 100 hectares and is characterised by a complex array of basins and arms which vary in degree of saturation. The northern part is a large shallow basin which is permanently saturated and contains extensive surface water, fringed with sedges and sphagnum moss beds. It is underlain by a deep layer of peat, formed over many centuries.
The swamp itself is listed as an endangered ecological community in NSW and nationally. Nunnock Swamp differs in species composition from the true alpine bogs that occur at higher elevations. Few other bog communities of similar species composition exist in the area.
In the Nunnock Swamp area there is a diversity of habitat types, including the tall forests surrounding the swamp and the mosaic of treeless vegetation communities. The forest communities support a variety of rare and threatened animals, including significant densities of possums and gliders. The open grasslands and bog communities with their fringing shrub and woodland habitats provide habitat for several species of endangered flora. The swamp waters support a community of frog species and are home to a plethora of birds.
The convergence of vegetation types surrounding the swamp supported a diversity of resources which Aboriginal people gathered to utilise for food, fibre and shelter. The whole Nunnock area is acknowledged to be of great importance to Aboriginal people who inhabited the area for at least 20 000 years.
The challenges faced by the NSW NPWS in managing Nunnock Swamp include addressing the introduction of weeds, spread of Phytopthora, feral animal control, climate change, illegal access and hunting.
Nunnock Swamp is a focal area for feral animal control due to the sensitivity to disturbance of the swamp and surrounding grasslands. The main species of concern are pigs and deer. Pigs plough up the surrounding grasslands and wallow and root in the swamp, leading to erosion, pollution of watercourses and the disturbance of local native plant species. Feral deer also cause considerable damage to native vegetation and wetland areas through browsing and trampling. Current control programs include trapping and opportunistic shooting, but as deer and pig numbers increase, the challenge will be to implement more targeted control programs.
Unfortunately both pig and deer are a magnet to illegal hunters, which has been an issue for several years. However, the installation of infrastructure and management presence in the area has reduced the numbers of illegal hunters and NPWS is now witnessing an increased positive visitor use of the area.
Achievements to date include the establishment of an informative and interesting network of walking tracks, the reduction in illegal hunting and off road driving and the ongoing preservation and conservation of an intact wetland.
The Nunnock Swamp walking track
North Nunnock Swamp (Franz Peters)
A five kilometre walking track follows the fringe of Nunnock Swamp and is part of a larger network of walking tracks that provide the opportunity to explore the surrounding grasslands, woodlands and forests. The walking tracks are connected by two camping sites. Nunnock Camping Area, which is set among the ecotone of the grasslands and snowgum woodlands, and Alexanders Hut, overlooking the natural frost hollows, providing shelter and basic facilities for visitors.
Picnicking, bird watching, walking, camping, horse riding, bicycle riding and recreational vehicle use are all popular activities undertaken in the vicinity. No formal educational use is currently made of the area although it has some potential for study by naturalists and ornithologists. The area has been used to collect pollen samples from previous climatic periods and may have scientific values for study of the wetland flora and fauna.
Since providing recreational opportunities in the area, Nunnock Swamp has experienced an increase in visitation. The walking trail network has provided recreational opportunities for changing visitor needs with a variety of age, fitness and leisure requirements. This enhances the visitors' experience and provides a take home message about the importance of wetlands and swamps.
NPWS will continues to endeavour to strike the right balance between connecting people to nature and the ongoing conservation of natural and cultural park values.
In the meantime, Nunnock Swamp will continue to sustain the surrounding grasslands and forests, act as a giant sponge and enchant and captivate visitors with its tranquillity and serenity.
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