Turtle

Drought Refuge for Waterbirds at Reedy Swamp

Friday 1 May, 2009
Reedy Swamp is currently receiving a much-needed drink to maintain it as a drought refuge this year.

Reedy Swamp is currently receiving a much-needed drink to maintain it as a drought refuge this year.

Reedy Swamp, a significant wetland in the Goulburn Broken catchment, is receiving about 200 megalitres of water under the Victorian environmental watering program, which is working to keep strategic sites alive in the extremely dry State. It will be delivered over a few weeks, finishing in mid-May.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority Environmental Water Reserve Manager, Keith Ward, said the water was from a Victorian environmental entitlement - water legally set aside to protect rivers and wetlands. Using it does not affect anybody else's water allocations.

"The environmental water will wet about 130ha of the wetland, providing drought refuge for a range of plants and animals, especially waterbirds," Mr Ward said.

"It will give waterbirds somewhere to rest and feed during autumn and winter and will prime the wetland so it can attract more birds and other plant and animal life heading into spring, which is when they breed."

Waterbirds are in serious decline in south-eastern Australia. In an average year there are about  500,000 waterbirds in the area. In 2007, this had dropped to 160,000. Their homes are also under threat, with the amount of wetland habitat in south-eastern Australia decreasing from an average of 300,000ha to 100,000ha by 2007.

"We're already noticing more life at the wetland as the environmental water is going in. People should also be aware that a small floating native plant (Azolla) is likely to be prominent at the wetland. It is brought on by the watering and while it may not look attractive, it signals a healthy productive wetland.

"After receiving environmental water this time last year, more than 3500 waterbirds were observed at the wetland. Many species that are vulnerable in Victoria were recorded, including: Blue-winged Shoveler, Glossy Ibis, Baillon's Crake, Musk Duck and White-bellied Sea Eagle. This was a major benefit from a relatively small volume of water."

Mr Ward said Reedy Swamp was an important part of the State's environmental watering program, because of its ability to hold water for long periods, providing drought refuge for a diverse community of waterbirds in a largely dry region. It remains closed for this year's duck hunting season.

For more information contact: Keith Ward on (03) 5820 1100.

Victoria's environmental watering program is a collaborative effort. It is overseen by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and involves catchment management authorities, Parks Victoria and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Catchment management authorities manage the delivery of the water.