Partnering for protection of the Coongie Lakes Ramsar

News article |

Vegetation mapping in the Coongie Lakes Ramsar area is helping to track changes and inform management decisions to the internationally-recognised wetland landscape.

Posted 30 June 2021.

Surveys to map the flow of water took place in June and recorded differences in the landscape where water flows have been altered due to the construction of roads, pipelines and access tracks.

It follows original mapping of the site in 2019 using remote satellite imagery that focussed on changes near pipelines and access tracks. Ground-truthing followed in May 2020 when sites were selected for more intensive survey monitoring.

SA Arid Lands Community Ecologist Ben McCallum said the survey results have highlighted the diversity of vegetation in the area in what is largely an unmapped area.

“The Coongie Lakes Ramsar area is incredibly dynamic. The changes in the soil samples and vegetation are dramatic within paired sites only 150m apart,” he said.

“We also noted that some changes to the landscape are caused by natural water flows, however in more recent times grading has pushed dirt to the sides of the road that in some cases, is now changing the natural flow of water after smaller, localised rainfall events.”

The intensive monitoring, conducted earlier this month, was conducted using the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Networks (TERN) plotting method for monitoring vegetation and soil changes. Used across the country in tropical, alpine, deserts and temperate rainforest environments, it is designed at understanding long term trends.

SA Arid Lands Landscape Board staff were joined by an Adelaide University soil scientist and a biological field expert proficient in the TERN methodology to map the plots. The mapped sites will be used to capture a wide range of vegetation and soils data, including plant DNA and soil genetics, which uses a chemical approach to analyse soil composition to determine from where they were derived.

Paired sites have been established at four locations on both sides of a track, within four different vegetation types. They will be used to compare changes over the next two to three years. Another 12 sites will be established and together with information collected in previous biological surveys, will help to form a better understanding across the landscape and fill in ecological knowledge gaps in the area.

The results of the most recent survey will be added to a database that will enable staff to recognise subtle changes that can be inspected in future visits to the site.

The Coongie Wetland Wonders project is supported by the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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