More wet equals more green in the marshes

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In 1991, the fashion was fluoro, the mullet was ‘mad’ and a show about nothing was hitting its straps on the other side of the world.

At the same time, a group of botanists was heading out beyond the Great Divide to map the vegetation of the Macquarie Marshes for the very first time.  The project would lay a foundation for several repeat surveys, the latest of which took place earlier this year.  Data collected by the research team had given them an insight into the health of flood dependent vegetation communities within the Macquarie Marshes and the effects of environmental watering.

Coolibah woodland in the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve. Photo S Bowen OEH.

Coolibah woodland in the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve. Photo S Bowen OEH.

Senior environmental scientist Sharon Bowen said 10 officers from NSW OEH and partner agencies surveyed a range of vegetation types including:

  • river red gum forests and woodland
  • lignum shrublands
  • water meadows of grasses and sedges, and
  • coolibah woodlands

“The survey was conducted as part of the NSW OEH Environmental Water Management Program.  This year, the surveys showed that areas inundated with environmental water were in better condition than those areas that received no environmental flows. Sites that did not receive environmental water were in a similar condition to the previous year. Results of the surveys help environmental water managers to track their progress toward longer term goals for the maintenance and restoration of wetland communities.

By understanding how vegetation communities respond to watering events, water managers can make informed decisions about the timing and duration of future flows. This is important for maintaining the health and resilience of vegetation communities including sites that are specifically targeted for environmental water in order to provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat. Mrs Bowen said.

Landholders play a key role in the delivery of environment water to wetland vegetation communities on their properties. Each year, these same properties are re-visited and the condition of the flood dependent vegetation is assessed and recorded. High resolution aerial photography was also used to complement the findings of ground surveys.

Information about visiting the stunning Macquarie Marshes can be found on the National Parks Wildlife Services website

Information about the environmental importance of the Macquarie Marshes, and the role this wetland plays for birds can be found on the Office of Environment and Heritage website.

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