Shrinking capacity for wetlands to store carbon
A wetland inventory undertaken in the Murray region (MCMA 2010) showed that one third of wetlands in the area had been cleared of native vegetation. Along with changes to water regimes and grazing, this clearing has reduced the capacity of wetlands to store carbon and maintain biodiversity values.
The Murray Wetland Carbon Storage Project assists landholders in rehabilitating wetlands to increase their carbon storage capacity and improve their biodiversity values. The project, funded by the Australian Government, is a partnership between Murray Local Land Services (Murray LLS) and the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ltd. (MDWWG). MDWWG is an empowered not-for-profit community group that has a proven history of achievement in wetland rehabilitation and management.
Increasing carbon and biodiversity through improved management and landholder partnerships
The project is providing fit-for-purpose funding through its on-ground investment program to support landholders in undertaking wetland management activities. These activities aim to improve carbon storage capacity and biodiversity by focusing on rehabilitating degraded wetlands, and enhancing existing wetland and riparian vegetation. On-ground activities are tailored to suit each wetland site and can involve:
- Planting of mixed local wetland, riparian and terrestrial vegetation;
- Altering grazing management with or without fencing (permanent or temporary);
- Pest and weed control;
- Environmental water delivery where appropriate and feasible; and
- Development of resources such as interpretative signage, bird hides, and stewardship visits.
The project will deliver 2,000 hectares of high-efficiency wetland carbon stores across the Murray LLS region by June 2017. Approximately 1,000 hectares have been delivered so far.
On-ground investment program
Landholders in the project target area are invited annually to apply for funding for works through the on-ground investment program. MDWWG and Murray LLS Project Officers visit landholders on site to discuss their long-term vision for their wetlands, assess the condition of proposed sites, and determine the type and extent of works needed for rehabilitation. Investment Round Three is currently open (closing 30 Sept 2015). Landholders are invited to contact Project Officers to determine their eligibility and/or access more information on the Murray Wetland Carbon Storage Project. Investment Round Four will commence next year and Expressions of Interest are accepted at any time.
The initial target area for Investment Round One was determined through extensive technical consultation, recommendations from the Wetland Inventory (MCMA 2010), and by reviewing over-cleared landscapes identified in the Murray Biodiversity Management Plan (MCMA 2013). In 2014, the target area was expanded slightly, from east and west, to include the towns of Jindera, Walla Walla, Culcairn, Jerilderie, Finley, Tocumwal and Barooga. The project still focuses on this target area. However, wetlands in other parts of the Murray region are considered on an individual basis and where funding permits. Management agreements, with a minimum 10-year duration registered on title, are entered into by participating landowners.
During Investment Round One, 25 wetlands were visited by MDWWG and Murray LLS Project Officers in the project’s initial planning phase. Fourteen sites were funded under Investment Round One, covering a diversity of vegetation types and condition, and providing improved management opportunities. Sites from Investment Round One are located in the Balldale, Corowa, Jerilderie, Savernake and Urana areas, and encompass 877 hectares. These wetlands comprise vegetation types such as: river red gum and grey box with grassy understoreys, canegrass, sedges/rushes/grasses, and lignum. Sites range from four to 420 hectares in size.
Sites funded under Investment Round One demonstrated potential for improved carbon storage, including evidence of an existing or known native seedbank, diverse vegetation community and/or habitat complexity, and favourable hydrological connectivity (with a low chance of being flushed or scoured, which results in lost carbon). Other criteria included the identification of landholders who could act as Wetland Champions and the potential for sites to be used to demonstrate NRM benefits to the wider community.
Eight sites were funded under Investment Round Two, also providing a diversity of vegetation types, and opportunities for community-focused activities. Sites were funded in the Coreen, Rand, Savernake and Corowa areas, and include some that are likely habitat to threatened species, such as Sloane’s Froglet (Crinia sloanei).
Urban lagoons rehabilitation program
MDWWG and Murray LLS have partnered with Albury City Council and NSW DPI Fisheries to rehabilitate Brown’s and Norman’s Lagoons in the Albury area. Both are important sites for recreation and biodiversity, providing habitat for numerous wetland bird species and in the past to threatened species such as Sloane’s Froglet and Southern Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca australis). Rehabilitation works facilitated by Albury City Council will increase the wetlands’ biodiversity values, carbon storage capacity, and maintain and promote their Aboriginal cultural heritage significance. The Wagirra Aboriginal Works Crew has been engaged to undertake on-ground works. This two year project is funding a range of activities, including:
- Revegetation with locally-native plant species;
- Control of weeds, including willows;
- Management of exotic fish, such as carp;
- Installation of bird hides;
- Installation of other infrastructure, such as paths and seats; and,
- Community awareness raising via information nights and interpretive signage
Monitoring carbon dynamics
A large-scale wetland carbon and biodiversity monitoring program is also being delivered in partnership with Deakin University. This monitoring program will:
- Allow clear demonstration of outcomes achieved by wetland rehabilitation works;
- Inform prioritisation of annual wetland rehabilitation activities and support on-going wetland management;
- Provide predictive capacity for likely future carbon dynamics of rehabilitated wetlands; and,
- Facilitate evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of investment in wetland rehabilitation as a mechanism for improving carbon storage and biodiversity.
It is anticipated that the results of the monitoring program will be used to demonstrate changes in carbon pools over time and importantly provide longer-term monitoring information on rehabilitation of wetlands for carbon outcomes.
For further information on the project please visit the following websites:
Murray Local Land Services (02) 6051 2200
Sarah Ning (Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group) 0427 376 157, firstname.lastname@example.org