New lease on life for Bottle Bend

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Black Box woodlands are bouncing back to health after environmental water provided a much-needed boost in the Bottle Bend Reserve near Mildura.

A 423 hectare site, including Black Box woodland and wetland vegetation, was earmarked for environmental flows by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

An allocation of 1650 megalitres was delivered in 2012/13 with a further 2000 megalitres provided in 2013/14.

Assistant Environmental Water Management Officer Sascha Healy said the OEH had worked closely with Crown Lands, who manage the 1700 hectare reserve, to deliver the environmental flows.

“This site is the largest Black Box woodland to be targeted with environmental water in southern NSW,” Ms Healy said.

“As a result of the watering event, we have seen the condition of mature Black Box visually improve. They have set seed and saplings have emerged.

“Wetland plants including nardoo, water ribbon and spike rush have responded and the watering has provided an opportunity for plants to recruit and reset the seed bank.

“The event has attracted numerous birds including spoonbills, herons and egrets with confirmed sightings of the threatened Hooded Robin.

“This was an area that had not received any natural flows for around two decades and, as a result, the floodplain had been in poor health for years.

“When you consider the condition of the floodplain prior to watering, the flora and fauna response that we have observed so far is fantastic,” she said.

swans at bottle bend june 2014 sascha healy

Swans at Bottle Bend. Photo S Healy OEH.

The OEH has incorporated soil moisture mapping into its monitoring program – an initiative that will provide water managers with more detail on the effects of environmental watering on the soil profile and vegetation root zones.

The Bottle Bend watering event has also provided an opportunity for members of the Barkindji Maraura Elders Environment Team (BMEET) to assist OEH with ecological monitoring and cultural heritage surveys on the reserve.

A small team from BMEET took part in vegetation, waterbird and water quality monitoring with Ms Healy. BMEET participants also accompanied Ms Healy, OEH archaeologist  Harvey Johnston and Heritage Information Officer Mick Kelly, as they revisited a number of known heritage sites documented more than 20 years ago. A number of additional significant features including scar trees, canoe trees, burial sites, fireplaces and middens were identified during the survey.

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