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Wetland system repair research alliance - Greening Australia and James Cook University (TropWATER)

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Dr Niall Connolly (Greening Australia) and Prof. Norm Duke (TropWATER, JCU)
A research alliance between Greening Australia and James Cook University’s TropWATER (Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystems Research) has formed to tackle and expand restoration of wetland systems within Great Barrier Reef Catchments.

Dr Nathan Waltham (Principal Research Scientist, TropWATER) said that “A recent audit of Australia’s freshwater and estuarine wetland systems revealed that most are moderately to severely modified, suffer poor water quality, are overtaken with invasive species, and generally provide reduced habitat for aquatic species. In response, government (state and federal) agencies have invested considerable funding into on-ground system repair projects, coordinated through NRM bodies and extension partners.  While these on-ground system repair projects have been delivered with the intention of achieving biodiversity and water quality outcomes, little scientific data is available to actually evaluate and validate these outcomes.”

Greening Australia (GA) is a national non-for-profit organisation striving towards the vision of healthy and productive landscapes where people and nature thrive.  GA (QLD) has committed to undertake a technical program to design and evaluate wetland system repair projects that will be delivered through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and GA QLD’s GBR Reef Aid funding.  Brendan Foran (CEO Greening Australia) said “the research alliance was important in supporting restoration efforts administered through Reef Aid funding, but was also necessary to support plans to expand the program to new project sites”.

We have two restoration sites are underway: 1) West Haughton, Crooked waterhole complex, Burdekin; and 2) Mungalla wetland, Ingham, and its early days before we can reveal results” said Mr Foran.   

Prof Norm Duke (TropWATER) recently visited Mungalla to inspect the extent of mangrove and saltmarsh wetland habitat adjacent to recent restoration efforts, which involved an earth bund wall removal to allow tidal flushing to help control invasive aquatic plants.  Prof Duke said “the mangrove and saltmarsh habitat adjacent to Mungalla station show signs of stress, whether because of impact from feral pigs, erosion, aquatic weeds or sea level rise, the mangroves are as risk without intervention”.

Dr Waltham said “field studies were underway covering water quality, habitat surveys, fish and turtles, and hydrology.  More data is expected over the coming months before the wet season.

For more information contact Dr Nathan Waltham (TropWATER, James Cook University -Nathan.waltham@jcu.edu.au or Dr Niall Connolly (Great Barrier Reef Rivers and Wetlands Program Manager – Nconnolly@greeningaustralia.org.au)

Greening Australia acknowledges the funding support for this project by the Australian Government’s Department of Environment through the Reef Trust Program.

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