Pigs shut out of critical Queensland wetlands
James Cook University researchers are assessing how much conservation value can be gained from a simple fence.
Dr Nathan Waltham from JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) said 56 hectares of wetlands at Eurimbula National Park and on freehold land south of Gladstone have been fenced off with 3kms of feral pig exclusion fencing.
Feral pigs forage and dig above and below ground and have wide-scale impacts on wetland vegetation, water quality, and other wildlife.
Dr Waltham said coastal wetlands in the catchments of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) provide extensive environmental, cultural and economic value.
“Wetlands play a role in protecting the coastline, buffering against wet season flood waters, improving water quality and maintaining fisheries productivity,” he said.
Dr Waltham leads a project within the National Environmental Science Program Tropical Water Quality Hub, and will evaluate the progress of the wetlands system by monitoring a variety of indicators such as water quality conditions, vegetation, and biodiversity.
“The results of this research will determine how successful we’ve been in excluding feral pigs within an area of the Round Hill Creek Wetlands, thereby reducing sediment run-off into the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG), Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) Rangers, a University of Queensland student, and a volunteer assisted Dr Waltham with the first round of monitoring in late March.
“So far, we have data on water quality (nutrients, sediments, dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, temperature), vegetation (saltmarsh, mangroves, freshwater plants), and fish and bird communities, in addition to examining the soil carbon sequestration and mobilisation,” said Dr Waltham.
He said the research project will continue for three years, and initial reports from Rangers working within the fenced area are encouraging.
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The project is a joint venture between the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG), Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), and a private land owner.
The fence construction was funded by the Australian Government through BMRG for $35 000 in 2016-2017, with another $35 000 in 2017-2018 to install stainless steel pickets and ring-lock mesh wire through areas exposed to salt water.
The fenced area has since been selected as part of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) evaluating wetland system repair projects.
Dr Nathan Waltham
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