Simple step of system repair breathes new life into threatened wetlands
A James Cook University scientist says one simple act by the Nywaigi landholders and the CSIRO has led to the rapid revitalisation and repair of a degraded wetland in northern Queensland.
JCU’s Dr Nathan Waltham (TropWATER) said the Mungalla wetlands, east of Ingham, suffered as a result of an earth wall constructed in the late 1940s.
“It stopped tidal movement into the wetlands and allowed the build-up of freshwater aquatic weeds, which dramatically altered the ecology of the area,” he said.
In 2012 the CSIRO, along with the Nywaigi people of Mungalla station, began reversing the degradation. The wall was torn down in October 2013, allowing seawater to flow into the wetland.
Dr Waltham said the impact was dramatic. “We surveyed fish occupying the wetlands in 2008 and recorded only three freshwater species. But when we went back recently we caught nine species. We were delighted to find barramundi, which has probably not been recorded in the wetlands in over 80 years.”
He said the impact of salt water on the freshwater weeds produced large-scale weed death and improved coastal connectivity. Along with the fish, new bird species also seem to have returned.
Project Lead Scientist, Brett Abbott of CSIRO said seeing that kind of success in such a short time was very rewarding. “This outcome is also extremely significant for the Nywaigi people who have been active in restoring their country.
“This project shows what can be achieved, working together, to get a positive water quality and ecological outcome for other damaged wetlands in the GBR region,” he said.
Director of the Mungalla Aboriginal Corporation for Business, Jacob Cassady, is also delighted with the project so far. “This project has focused on restoring our country for current and future generations. To see the wetlands coming back to life again, and barramundi now present, makes the years of effort really rewarding. This is a fantastic outcome for our land and sea country, but we still have so much more to do.”
* The Mungalla wetland project is being undertaken with the financial assistance of the Federal Government (Department of the Environment).
Dr Nathan Waltham (07) 4781 4191
Brett Abbott (07) 4753 8513