Next time you lay your head on your pillow, spare a thought for the team of scientists from Charles Sturt University who monitor the Murrumbidgee for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO).
Because wetlands come alive at night, the team are often traipsing around by torchlight, putting out fish nets, counting frogs and checking water quality – all while sweating it out in waders and swotting at all sorts of biting insects. Many of these wetlands are in hard to access areas, so navigating them in the dark can be extremely challenging. However, with gumboots, waders and a kayak in tow, these scientists are ready for anything.
Rain, hail or dust, wetland monitoring teams work around the clock; surveying frogs and birds, hauling in fish nets and counting thousands of tiny native and exotic fish. They do this methodically every few months at a selected number of wetlands across the Murrumbidgee catchment – from Narrandera right down to where the Murrumbidgee River joins the Murray.
Their findings give environmental water managers important information about what native plant and animal species need to survive and flourish, including when the best time is for them to receive water and how often and how long they need to be inundated. This informs their decisions on how to best deliver water to boost the health our river and wetland systems.
Michele Groat from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office says we’ve learned all sorts of things through the monitoring of scientists
“We’ve learned the importance of getting water into refuge sites during dry times to enable frogs and other riverine animals to hang on until conditions improve. We now actively pump water into several important frog sites during dry times, rescuing the threatened Southern Bell Frog from extinction in some areas.”
“We’ve also learned the importance of reconnecting wetlands to the river more often. Not only to remove carbon from the floodplain to lessen the risk of hypoxic black water and subsequent fish deaths, but also to prevent the spread of thousands of juvenile red gums that can choke out other important wetland plants.”
“Perhaps surprisingly, we’ve discovered that in the Lower Murrumbidgee, permanent floodplain creeks and lakes are important for Golden perch spawning and recruitment. This has directly changed the way we deliver water to support the Golden perch to successfully breed,” Ms Groat said
Environmental watering is still a relatively new science and there is plenty more to learn to ensure we are getting the most benefits for the environment we can with the water allocated to us. The learnings from each years’ monitoring are collated and built into future management decisions so that environmental water managers can better meet the needs of riverine plants and animals.
For further information on what we’ve learned from monitoring visit www.flow-mer.org.au