World Wetlands Day is coming!

News article |

World Wetlands Day is a celebration of why wetlands are so important to the environment and why we should take care of them.

Posted 01 February 2021.

Each year on 2 February, this day commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in 1971.

Martins Bend, in Berri, is a great location where people can experience the beauty and biodiversity of both permanently wet and temporary wetlands.

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Wetland Ecologist Courtney Monk said the wetlands at Martin Bend is just one of the wide variety of significant wetlands that South Australia is blessed with.

“These wetlands provide vital habitat and food resources for fish, turtles, frogs, and birds, and migratory wading birds also spend time at some of our wetlands before travelling thousands of kilometres back to the northern hemisphere to breed,” Ms Monk said.

“Many of our wetlands are suffering the impacts of river regulation, water extraction and feral species, especially common carp (Cyprinus carpio), resulting in a reduction or loss of habitat quality and associated biodiversity.

“Our wetlands team work on projects to improve the quality of wetlands that are permanently connected to the river and temporary wetlands that only fill when the river levels rise due to flood waters.

“These two types of wetlands require different management actions to help improve their condition and increase biodiversity by supporting vegetation growth and native species,” Ms Monk said.

“The biggest issue for permanent wetlands is their stable water levels provide perfect conditions for carp to live and breed, but prior to river regulation and water extraction, these wetlands would experience wet and dry cycles with variable water levels.

“Our Wetlands Team uses water regulating structures to disconnect permanent wetlands from the river so that they can dry out for a short time. This removes the carp, allows the silt to settle, and prevents river red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) from becoming permanently water logged.

“Once a dried out wetland is refilled, the water becomes clear and the wetland explodes into life with aquatic plants, birds, fish, turtles, and frogs, particularly if carp can be prevented from re-entering.

Temporary wetlands have suffered from installation of locks and weirs and water extraction which has reduced the number and size of flood events. This has resulted in the condition of these wetlands declining over time because they don’t receive enough water as often.

To maintain these temporary wetlands and the species that rely on them, the Wetlands Team manages a watering program where water for the environment, provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, is pumped into temporary wetlands around the Riverland.

“What is exciting is that Martin Bend in Berri, a favourite local spot to visit, is set to receive a drink of environmental water.

“The permanent wetland at Martin Bend has been closed since March 2020 and is nearly dry, ready to be refilled in spring, whereas the temporary wetland located here was filled with environmental water in May 2020 and is continuing to hold water thanks to top up pumping and the wet year we’ve had,” Ms Monk said.

The walking trail at Martin Bend allows people to experience all the sights and sounds of nature as it responds to the rewetting of the wetland.

Ms Monk said it’s such a privilege to work in these habitats and see them improve with good management over time.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a healthy, productive wetland, full of aquatic vegetation and supporting hundreds of native birds, fish and frogs,” Ms Monk said.

The work is supported by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, and the landscape levies.

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