Shepparton News, May 15 2008

Thursday 15 May, 2008
By Kayla Maskell

By Kayla Maskell

Wetland flora, bird and fish species within the Goulburn Broken system could become extinct if climate change predictions made in a CSIRO Murray-Darling Basin report are met for 2030.

Even under the best case scenario, it's a bleak outlook for species and their habitats at wetlands such as Gemmils and Reedy Swamps with a substantial reduction in the occurrence and volume of high flows on the Goulburn River floodplain forecast.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority River Health Waterways Manager Wayne Tennant said without the water being delivered to the wetlands, some species would not return to the sites.

"They may prefer other sites with water (and) some local extinctions may result through extended dry periods," he said.

Mr Tennant said this included important flora on the lower Goulburn floodplain such as the silky browntop, swamp billybutton, barking owl and squirrel glider; and already vulnerable fish species including trout, cod and silver perch.

While Mr Tennant said the quality of the water available for specific environmental assets was yet to be determined, future availability would require an agreed share between environmemt and consumptive use.

But he said as a short term approach a 2Gl environmental release had been undertaken at Reedy Swamp north of Shepparton; the Broken Creek-fed Moodie Swamp near Yabba North; Black Swamp at Wunghnu; and Kinnaird Swamp at Numurkah to help provide drought refuges for birds and other species.

"Water has been released at four wetlands in the Goulburn Broken catchment as a part of Victoria's environmental water entitlements over the past few weeks," he said.

"While the water is relatively small it will be important to both flora and fauna at the targeted sites.... (500Ml) is currently being delivered to Reedy, the wetland floor (is) now mostly covered and a small number of water birds and frogs are being attracted."

The report said a continuation of the recent climate change meant an end to large flood events for the lower Goulburn floodplain, resulting in "serious ecological consequences".

Mr Tenant said flood events were already prevented from flowing onto the floodplain because of levee banks which flank the Goulburn River.

In the worst-case climate change prediction for 2030, Mr Tennant said some species would also be affected through a loss of breeding.