National Wetlands Update February 2013
Issue No. 22, February 2013
Managing water in the landscape - wetlands surviving the dry
Kirralee Donovan, WetlandCare Australia
In many cases wetland management is about finding a balance between environmental health and agricultural productivity. Mid north coast of New South Wales, 2012.
WetlandCare Australia is working with floodplain farmers on the mid north coast of New South Wales to implement best practice wetland management. In dry weather floodplain wetlands are at risk of degradation. Prolonged dry weather brings a different set of wetland management challenges including the impacts of acid sulfate soil - a priority management issue for WetlandCare Australia.
Exposure of acid sulfate soils is a threat as water levels drop in low lying wetlands and floodplain drainage systems. As water levels contract, acid sulfate layers are exposed to oxygen and acid forms. This process leads to scalding of agricultural land and significant consequences for water quality and aquatic life with the next onset of rain.
WetlandCare Australia, a national wetland conservation organisation, has been working with floodplain farmers to implement best practice wetland management. Strategies to retain appropriate water levels and maintain healthy wetland habitat and water quality is the aim of this work. Best practice drainage and wise use of floodplain wetlands is a focus, removing excess flood water from the land in wet times but holding back sufficient water in the dry times. During dry times holding back and maintaining set water levels in drainage channels and wetlands is critical for both wetland health and agricultural productivity.
WetlandCare Australia is actively promoting best practice options to better manage acid sulfate soils and maintain controlled water levels. A current project on the Bellinger floodplain has seen the installation of a temporary weir structure to retain water in significant backswamp wetlands on the property. This work in conjunction with other natural resource management activities including drain revegetation and upgrading stock laneways has contributed towards improved wetland health and enhanced water quality both onsite as well as downstream.