Water for environment provides platform for wetlands recovery

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

After years of drought in many parts of the Murray-Darling Basin, wet conditions and water for the environment have seen a revival of many wetlands with significant waterbird breeding underway.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Mr Hilton Taylor said we have been working with communities, First Nations and state governments to sustain wetlands in dry times, so they have the best chance of bouncing back when better conditions return like we are seeing now.

“As we celebrate World Wetlands Day, waterbird breeding occurring across the Basin is a good sign of healthy wetlands.

“Site managers are observing thousands of bird nests at internationally significant wetlands like the Gwydir wetlands, Macquarie Marshes and Narran Lakes in the north of the Basin.

“Following a very wet spring and summer, thousands of waterbirds are also nesting in the wetlands of the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee. Large ibis and pelican colonies are active in Gayini wetlands and are currently being supported with water for the environment.

“Fish are also benefitting with water from the north of the Basin filling Menindee Lakes – a native fish nursery teeming with Golden Perch. Flows out of Menindee Lakes are helping fish disperse into the southern Basin.

“High flows in the Murray have seen a number of wetlands re-connected to the main river including places like Barmah-Millewa Forest, the mid-Murray floodplain between Echuca and Euston, the South Australian floodplains and through to the Lower Lakes and Coorong. These flows are supporting fish breeding, reviving native plants and creating habitat for animals including migratory birds and threatened frogs,” he said.

Mr Taylor said the long-term trend of declining waterbird populations across the Murray-Darling Basin was of enormous concern.

“The large colonies we are seeing now are critical to sustaining waterbird populations.

“Once the rains arrived late last year the wetlands were boosted into recovery – for example the Macquarie Marshes hasn’t had a significant colonial bird breeding event since 2016. At the Gwydir wetlands major bird breeding numbers have not been seen since 2012.

“We’re excited at the prospect of a baby bird boom across all of these wetlands, and we are looking forward to various species starting to take flight,” he said.

Mr Taylor said the environmental outcomes alone are outstanding but the positives for basin communities are also encouraging.

“It’s a great time to visit your local wetland and enjoy nature. While many wetland areas have observation areas and provide wonderful sites for locals and visitors, it is important to note bird breeding sites are protected and must not be disturbed.

“We would also like to thank the many farmers who are working with water managers to look after the waterbirds that are currently breeding in wetlands on their properties, and especially for maintaining their wetlands over the longer term, he said.”

The CEWO works with its partners across the Murray-Darling Basin to deliver water for the environment and has a dedicated Wetlands Team to ensure the Australian Government meets its international obligations for Ramsar sites within the Basin and across the nation.

More information:

Waterbirds nesting in the Lachlan. Photo credit UNSW.

Waterbirds nesting in the Lachlan. Photo credit UNSW.
One of the first images from the CEWO's new monitoring camera at Long Arm, Narran Lakes.

One of the first images from the CEWO’s new monitoring camera at Long Arm, Narran Lakes.

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