National Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
WetlandCare Australia expands floodplain management across the Nambucca and Bellinger catchments
Josh Keating and Kirralee Donovan, WetlandCare Australia, Coffs Harbour, NSW.
A wetland degraded by the impacts of acid sulphate (before) (WetlandCare Australia)
The riverine systems of the Nambucca and Bellinger catchments are significant natural attractions of the mid north coast of New South Wales. The coastal floodplain wetlands that adjoin these systems are particularly important in supporting the health and productivity of both the Nambucca and Bellinger rivers. Wetlands act to filter and capture pollutants, sediments and nutrients from waterways, enhancing water quality and supporting biodiversity. Many fish and waterbird species rely on the food, nursery habitats and breeding grounds that wetlands provide.
These benefits also support commercial and non-commercial tourism industries including fishing, bird watching and a range of leisure sports. WetlandCare Australia's Sustainable Floodplain Management Program focuses on enhancing wetland health, resilience and values through engaging floodplain landholders to implement better land use practices. A key objective is to promote the range of ecosystem services and functions that coastal floodplain wetlands provide within the environment. The program directly contributes to the health of floodplain wetlands and has significant flow-on benefits for downstream users and industries.
Floodplain issues and challenges
Floodplain landscapes and varying climatic conditions contribute to a wide range of issues that require individual planning, assessment and management. Sustainable and economically viable management can be achieved by working within the natural capacity of the land, a principle incorporated in the Sustainable Floodplain Management Program. Through the program WetlandCare Australia has been able to engage a number of key floodplain landholders and community groups on a range of significant floodplain farming and natural resource management issues. Key issues of the program include the following:
The same wetland restored through drainage management - returning natural values for activities like bird watching (WetlandCare Australia)
- drainage and acid sulfate soils - focusing on implementing best practice floodgate management and controlling seasonal water levels in low-lying backswamps to reduce the exposure of acid sulfate layers, acid runoff and resulting poor water quality
- riparian weeds - focusing on planning and implementing an integrated weed control strategy
- riparian health and streambank erosion - focusing on managing existing native riparian vegetation and revegetating exposed banks
- fish passage and habitat - focusing on improving aquatic environments including water quality and habitat connectivity.
Successful outcomes now and in the future
Although challenged by severe flooding and continuous wet weather throughout the three-year program, the overall objectives have been met, with an outstanding outcome being the engagement of key floodplain landholders in sustainable land management. As well as community engagement, WetlandCare Australia is working closely with more than 10 landholders to develop comprehensive property plans and implement on-ground works that see positive outcomes for the environment, agriculture, tourism and downstream areas.
In implementing these on-ground works WetlandCare Australia, with funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country program, will expand community awareness of the multiple values of best practice floodplain management to achieve enhanced environmental health, improved farm productivity and sustainable coastal industries. Positive, overlapping benefits and improvements to agricultural production, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and ecological values such as water quality, wetland habitats and aquatic biodiversity are key components contributing to the success of the program.
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