Working to restore drought affected environments

A decade of carefully planned water delivery and restorative works on environments badly affected by the Millennium Drought are being celebrated as a huge success.

The Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin (SAMDB) Wetlands Team recently shared some imagery highlighting the success of their programs, which also demonstrates the importance of well implemented water delivery.

In a case study, Molo Flat wetland, near Cadell has been examined as a site of change, and is pictured both before and after the implementation of recovery programs, following the Millennium Drought.

Image 1 (before) was captured in October 2011, shortly after the breaking of the drought and shows the wetland as struggling.

Some water is present, but long lived vegetation is nearly dead or dying. The aquatic habitat has taken a beating, aquatic species are almost non-existent, the feeding and nesting opportunities for water birds are very poor, and the floodplain groundwater is visibly salty.

Today, things haves changed remarkably.

Image 2 (after) was captured last month (April 2020) and shows huge improvements.

Following 10 years of consistent, carefully planned delivery of water to the site through a partnership between the SAMDB Natural Resources Management Board and the Commonwealth Environment Water Holder, the environment has recovered remarkably.

The wetland is seen drying after the previous spring/summer's delivery of water for the environment, but the floodplain is evidently well hydrated and long-lived vegetation is healthy and resilient.

SAMDB Wetlands Team Leader Darren Willis said the change was palpable.

"Riparian vegetation is vigorous and providing ample nesting opportunities for water birds; and macroinvertebrates (bugs and insects), native fish, yabbies, turtles and other aquatic species were abundant during the most recent wet phase," Mr Willis said.

"This image taken in April reflects a healthy food web. The drying wetland basin and surrounding floodplain are covered by a rich carpet of herbs, sedges and grasses."

Mr Willis said wetlands can definitely recover from dominant impact events like the Millennium Drought and that such recoveries can be strongly supported by collaborative and committed partnerships.

"It takes longer than one or two years, but we can make it happen if we commit to the long-term game, and the results can be as powerfully positive as the drought was negative," Mr Willis said.

"So next year, Molo Flat wetland's main basin will go through a dry-phase, to mimic natural patterns and our team will be focusing their efforts on other managed wetland sites in partnership with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder."

Water for this initiative was provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, and the planning and implementation of this project are supported by the Australian Government's Regional Land Partnerships initiative of the National Landcare Program and the South Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board and NRM levies.