Featured News JCU scientists assess feral controls

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Fri, 18 Aug 2017

JCU scientists assess feral controls

Pig in a wetland
Pig basking in a wetland. Image: Brian Ross

Invasive species are set for the chop and wetlands feeding into the Great Barrier Reef will benefit as James Cook University partners with a nationwide environmental organisation.

Dr Nathan Waltham, Principal Research Scientist at JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystems Research (TropWATER) said the research alliance between Greening Australia (GA) and TropWATER would focus on the restoration of wetland systems within the reef’s catchments.

Dr Waltham said coastal wetlands provide critical habitat for aquatic flora and fauna species, as well as cultural values for local communities in Australia.

“The ability for wetlands to continue providing these services in the future is threatened owing to a range of pressures such as agriculture, overfishing, hunting, recreation, water extraction and pollution of water. Increasingly, there is also the threat from introduced feral animals which can easily cause wide-scale destruction,” he said.

Dr Waltham said a recent audit of Australia’s wetland systems show most have poor water quality and have been overtaken by invasive species.

“Government has put considerable amounts of money into trying to repair them, but there is little scientific data produced to enable the repair work to be evaluated and validated,” he said.

Brendan Foran, the CEO of Greening Australia (GA), said the research alliance is important in supporting restoration efforts administered through GA QLD’s GBR Reef Aid funding, but is also necessary to support plans to expand the program to new project sites.

“We have two restoration sites underway as part of our Reef Aid program– at the West Haughton crooked waterhole complex in the Burdekin and at Mungalla wetland in Ingham,” said Mr Foran.

Dr Waltham said TropWATER field studies were underway at Mungalla, covering water quality, habitat surveys, fish and turtles, and hydrology – with data expected over the coming months.

In a separate project, TropWATER scientists are also currently assessing the impact of a 3km fence designed to keep feral pigs and cattle out of a large coastal wetland near Agnes Waters in Queensland. The fence was completed in November 2016 with funding from the Burnett Mary Regional Group.

“We’ve seen the impact of feral animals on coastal wetlands all the way along the northern Queensland coastline, including the Gulf of Carpentaria. The damage has a local impact, but often sediment from damaged wetland areas is also washed downstream,” said Dr Waltham.

He said federal funding through the National Environment Science Program – Tropical Water Quality Hub, will allow TropWATER to comprehensively assess the scheme, and will provide data to support new projects on the horizon.

Dr Waltham said work assessing the Agnes Waters and Mungalla project would be completed in December 2019.

Images here.

Please credit Brian Ross.


Greening Australia is a national non-for-profit organisation striving towards the vision of healthy and productive landscapes where people and nature thrive.  GA (QLD) has committed to undertake a technical program to design and evaluate wetland system repair projects that will be delivered through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and GA QLD’s GBR Reef Aid funding.


Dr Nathan Waltham
E: Nathan.waltham@jcu.edu.au