Freshwater Biodiversity News

Extracts from MCCN (Marine and Coastal Community Network) and BRN (NSW Biodiversity Research Network) newsletters, with other contributions Selected and edited by Jon Nevill, OnlyOnePlanet Australia.

Please email prospective items to They need to be (a) of general inland aquatic biodiversity interest, (b) short (one paragraph only), and (c) they need to have a web or email link so readers can obtain more information. Abstracts or summaries of published papers of wide general interest are suitable, as are notifications of upcoming conferences or seminars.



August 2006





Science Table of Contents Text for Freshwater Resources: 25 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5790
Running Out of Water--and Time: John Bohannon p. 1085

Science Table of Contents Text for Freshwater Resources: 25 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5790
Trajectory Shifts in the Arctic and Subarctic Freshwater Cycle
Bruce J. Peterson, James McClelland, Ruth Curry, Robert M. Holmes, John E. Walsh, and Knut Aagaard p. 1061


Science Table of Contents Text for Freshwater Resources: 25 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5790
For Our Thirsty World, Efficiency or Else
Sandra L. Postel p. 1046



Science Table of Contents Text for Freshwater Resources: 25 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5790
Are Global Conservation Efforts Successful?
Ana S. L. Rodrigues p. 1051



Science Table of Contents Text for Freshwater Resources: 25 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5790
Why Are There So Many Species of Herbivorous Insects in Tropical Rainforests?
Vojtech Novotny, Pavel Drozd, Scott E. Miller, Miroslav Kulfan, Milan Janda, Yves Basset, and George D. Weiblen  p. 1115



Science Table of Contents Text for Freshwater Resources: 25 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5790
What's a Wetland, Anyhow? Donald Kennedy and Brooks Hanson p. 1019


Science Table of Contents Text for Migration and Dispersal: 11 August 2006; Vol. 313, No. 5788
Loss of a Harvested Fish Species Disrupts Carbon Flow in a Diverse Tropical River
Brad W. Taylor, Alexander S. Flecker, and Robert O. Hall, Jr. p. 833




July  2006

 highlights: 24 July 2006

Dam project threatens living fossil: Lungfish face extinction, say environmentalists. 19 July 2006


Australasian Aquaculture 2006

This conference, trade show and associated events of the National Aquaculture Council, the South Australian Aquaculture Council and the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the World Aquaculture to be held from 27-30 August 2006 at the Adelaide Convention Centre, SA. More information:


Australian Society of Fish Biology

A workshop and conference of the Australian Society ofr Fish Biology is to be held  in Hobart, Tasmania 28 August-1 September 2006. Find out more at


Ecology across the Tasman

This third joint conference of the New Zealand Ecological Society and the Ecological Society of Australia will enable people from all sectors of ecology to interact and exchange information, and to discuss current and envisioned developments in ecology. The conference will be held in Wellington NZ from 28 August to 1 September 2006. More information:


Riversymposium – managing rivers in a changing climate

International Riversymposium, which Australia hosts each year in Brisbane, is a wake up call to better preserve and manage water resources. This year’s theme, ‘Managing rivers with climate change and expanding populations’ looks at the challenge of meeting human needs for water under changing climatic conditions. The symposium is an integral part of Brisbane’s annual broad-based cultural event, the Riverfestival. Now in its ninth year, the symposium provides a global forum which aims to make a difference to the declining state of rivers and waterways globally. Themes include river issues such as planning for climate change; managing wetlands; responding to natural disasters; the role of NGOs in managing rivers; challenges for rivers in the Pacific; Indigenous river management; environmental flow for rivers and estuaries; and community catchment management. Special workshops are planned for climate change modelling, AusAID regional plans, World Water Monitoring Day, and water planning in Australia. For information, program outline and booking, visit


Australian Weeds Conference

The 15th Australian Weeds Conference will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 24-28 September 2006. The conference theme is Managing Weeds in a Changing Climate. More information:


Conservation planning symposium

This conference is to be held in Perth, WA, on 27-28 Spetember. Email for more information.


Molluscs 2006 - Molluscs in Research, Conservation and the Economy

Preliminary notice of triennial meeting of the Malacological Society of Australasia entitled Molluscs in Research, Conservation and the Economy. The meeting is to be held on 6 - 8 December 2006 at the University of Wollongong, with two day pre and post conference workshops (4-5th Dec, 9-10 Dec). The objective of this meeting is to bring together students, established researchers, naturalists and members of government and NGO agencies that have an interest in molluscs. The meeting will focus on current research involving molluscs in the Australasian area. Molluscs are the second largest animal phylum and many are ecologically and economically important. They are dominant organisms in marine environments and have suffered more human-induced extinctions on land and in freshwaters than seen in all tetrapod vertebrates. Themes:

·         Applied studies (aquaculture, fisheries, parasitology, invasive species)

·         Conservation and ecology (including endangered species, indicator species, molluscs in experimental ecology, tracking environmental changes)

·         Systematics (including taxonomy, phylogeny, evolution, faunistics, biogeography)

·         Genetics and development (population genetics, evolution-development, larval development)

For more information or to register visit the conference website at or contact: Mark Norman or Winston Ponder


Biodiversity conference in Tasmania - advance notice and invitation to present

Tamar NRM, in associate with the Centre for Environment, University of Tasmania, is holding a conference entitled “Biodiversity: Balancing Conservation and Production – case studies from the real world“ from 26 – 28 June 2007. The conference will be a pooling of practical experience, innovative ideas and vision to inspire informed action for the improvement of both productivity and biodiversity. An invitation is extended to those interested in presenting case studies of direct relevance to the conference theme. Deadline for expression of interest for presenters is 31 August 2006. For more information contact Amanda Bruce ( or the Conference Managers 03 6330 1444,

The biodiversity extinction crisis – advance notice

Join the inaugural meeting of the Australasian Section of the Society for Conservation Biology at a conference entitled The biodiversity extinction crisis: an Australiasian and Pacific response. This conference is to be held from 10-13 July 2007 at The University of NSW, Sydney. It is being hosted by Australasian Section of the Society for Conservation Biology. Currently there is no website, although one will be forthcoming in the near future. In the meantime if you would like to register your interest or find out more, contact Karen Firestone ( or Richard Kingsford ( at UNSW.


Charophytes: a new journal

By John Porter (Department of Environment & Conservation NSW)

A new journal Charophytes (edited by Michelle T. Casanova) is dedicated to the promotion of research and communication about charophytes. Charophytes are macroscopic, green algae common in freshwater wetlands, ponds, dams and saline and esturine lakes. They are widely distributed throughout Australia and are excellent colonisers of temporary wetlands. They have dessication resistant spores which create persistent sediment ‘seedbanks’. Charophytes are attractive to waterbirds and provide an important food source as well as provide habitat for other lifeforms.

Charophytes welcomes papers of high-quality, original research, including critical reviews and taxonomic notes. The scope includes ecology, biogeography, physiology, ecophysiology, palaeontology, management, taxonomy, genetics, molecular biology, phylogeny, morphology, systematics and evolution, in fact all aspects of research on charophytes in the broad sense.

Papers should engender a broad interest, and reports that break new ground or advance our understanding of charophytes in general are particularly welcomed. Reviews of current knowledge are also welcomed, provided they incorporate an account of implications and/or new directions for research. Taxonomic notes consisting of corrections of nomenclature or taxonomy, or descriptions of new species are welcomed. The journal’s home page is An ISI Journal Citation Reports Ranking is not yet available.



EMR journal features vegetation condition mapping

A recent special issue of the journal Ecological Management and Restoration (Vol 7, Supplement 1, June 2006) is a collection of papers submitted by participants of a workshop held at CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Canberra in August 2005 titled Mapping vegetation condition in the context of biodiversity conservation. The workshop brought together managers and researchers with an interest in vegetation condition policy and assessment at various scales. The aims of the workshop were to: examine conceptual approaches used to define vegetation condition; identify the drivers for information on vegetation condition; provide an overview of methods for assessing vegetation condition at various scales; and demonstrate how information on vegetation condition may improve the management of biodiversity. Papers on these issues are presented in the special issue of EMR. The paper abstracts can be viewed online at by going to .


Algal Workshop, September 2006

The 6th Australian Algal Workshop will be held at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, 24th -26th September 2006 (finishing at lunch time on the 26th ). The workshop comprises lecture and laboratory sessions, and is dedicated to the taxonomy of the main algal groups. Apart from a general background on identification of algae, special talks on filamentous green, diatoms, charophytes, red and blue algae are on the program. The workshop will emphasize on toxic taxa with several special talks on new findings. NATA representatives will provide an update on laboratory accreditation. Identification guides will be provided. The organisers are Dr Adriana García and Dr Stephen Skinner and can be contacted by email: More information is available online at




Study names Australia's protected rivers:
A paper presented to the Catchments to Coasts Conference (July 9-14, 2006) identifies about 60 rivers or river reaches which receive substantial protection from large terrestrial protected areas in Australia. The 14 largest protected rivers lie within 8 large protected areas: Kakadu National Park (NT), Tasmania's Southwest World Heritage Area, Western Australia's Prince Regent River Biosphere Reserve, Rudall River National Park, and Shannon River National Park, Queensland's Jardine River National Park, New South Wales' Nadgee Nature Reserve, and South Australia's Kangaroo Island National Park. The paper and associated powerpoint presentation by Janet Stein and Jon Nevill can be accessed at  


Sydney sandstone aquifers

Two aquifers, together containing more than the volume of Sydney Harbour, have been surveyed within sandstone on the outskirts of Sydney. Read the media release online


EDO opens office in northern rivers area

The Environmental Defender’s Office (NSW) Ltd opened a new office in Lismore this month. The new office, EDO Northern Rivers, will provide legal advice and community education services throughout the Northern Rivers region. The contact details for the new office are as follows: EDO Northern Rivers, 10 Club Lane, Lismore NSW 2480, phone 1300 369 791.



NSW vegetation classification and assessment project

By John Benson (Botanic Gardens Trust)

The June issue of the Botanic Gardens Trust ecological journal Cunninghamia Vol 9(3) is dedicated to publishing the first two papers in the NSW Vegetation Classification and Assessment project. The first paper discusses vegetation classification generally and describes the methods, parameters and rules used in the project including detailed descriptions of the NSWVCA database. The other paper describes 213 plant communities classified for the 8 western bioregions of NSW (57% of NSW or 45 million hectares) being the NSW Western Plains. A detailed audit of the vegetation in all 83 Western Plains protected areas is also provided. A CD in the pocket of the journal contains a read only version of the NSWVCA database, full record reports (90 fields of information per community) for 8 bioregions, two CMAs and all of the NSW Western Plains and a Short Report (28 fields) of the same. A spreadsheet of a bibliography of vegetation information for western NSW is also presented on the CD. The project so far has taken six years of work by John Benson of the Botanic Gardens Trust. The project is planned to continue eastwards to cover more bioregions and more Catchment Management Areas. The vegetation units are being incorporated into the CMA PVP biometic tool and are suitable for environmental planning and assessment at local, regional and national scales. Contact the Botanic Gardens shop on 02 9231 8125 if you would like to purchase the journal issue.

The title of the two Cunninghamia papers are:

Benson, J.S. (2006) New South Wales Vegetation Classification and Assessment: Introduction - the classification, database, assessment of protected areas and threat status of plant communities. Cunninghamia 9(3): 331-382.

Benson, J.S., Allen, C., Togher, C. & Lemmon, J. (2006) New South Wales Vegetation Classification and Assessment: Part 1 Plant communities of the NSW Western Plains. Cunninghamia 9(3): 383-451.



Three research hubs to receive federal government funding

The Australian Government has just announced $23 million in funding over the next 4 years to develop three world-class multi-disciplinary research hubs which will explore Australia’s most pressing environmental challenges. The funding recipients are the first under the Australian Government’s $100 million Commonwealth Environmental Research Facilities (CERF) Program. The new hubs are:

·         Research hub for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis University of Queensland. Professor Hugh Possingham will receive $6.9 million to establish a research hub addressing Australia’s environmental planning, decision making and policy approaches. Prof Possingham will lead 12 principal researchers and up to 60 research fellows and PhD students from VIC, QLD and ACT institutions. The team will develop tools that take account of social as well as environmental implications of management and policy decisions for a range of persistent environmental challenges including feral animal control, managing invasive species in the Australian alps, fire management in urban/rural overlap areas and environmental river flows to improve the management of these challenges.

·         Research hub for Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRACK). A group of seven researchers from WA, NT and QLD will receive $8 million to improve management information for northern Australia’s catchments (rivers and coasts between the tip of Cape York Peninsula and Broome). The hub will identify important natural assets and ecosystem services to provide a solid base upon which to assess the social, economic and environmental impacts and the viability of proposed developments in the region. The hub will generate and disseminate the knowledge needed by regional NRM bodies, governments, Indigenous communities and industry to support the sustainable management of tropical rivers and costal environments.

·         Research hub for Landscape Logic: Linking Land and Water Management to Resource Condition Targets. University of Tasmania’s Professor Ted Lefroy will receive $7.9 million to establish a research hub that will develop tools to improve the sustainability of natural resource management practices. He will lead a partnership of 24 researchers across seven institutions and six regional catchment management organisations including the North East, Northern Central and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Agencies in Victoria, and the NRM North, South and Cradle Coast in Tasmania. This hub will develop a practical approach to natural resource management by identifying the links between land management at paddock, farm and forest block level, and landscape health at catchment and regional levels, improving returns from existing and proposed public investments in natural resource management. The model will be unique in its applicability across a broad range of environments, enabling environment managers to identify localities and management activities that are contributing to improving or decreasing the health or sustainability of our landscapes, and where appropriate suggest alternative activities to improve management outcomes. This work will draw on the research that has been undertaken through the Australian Government’s previous investment in natural resource management through the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality. It will contribute to Australia’s management of emerging markets for sustainable use of natural resources such as water, carbon and biodiversity.


Read the media release at

DEH are also looking to run further funding rounds under the CERF program later this year, focussing on individual research fellowships and projects. The details of this are yet to be sorted out, so keep an eye on their website for new information

$m 21 federal biodiversity funding

In June, Federal and NSW state ministers announced $21 million in funding from the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the National Heritage Trust for biodiversity projects across NSW. Some of the 49 major environmental projects soon to be underway are: a project aimed at rescuing the endangered Corroboree Frog from extinction; projects targeting salinity; erosion and pollution in the Murray River and its surrounds; research on dryland salinity and monitoring of eight key sites around NSW; monitoring of great white sharks and grey nurse sharks; and habitat management for the Broad-headed snake. Read the media release online at


National framework for coastal zone management

In May 2006, the Australian Government released a national plan to “protect our precious coastal environment and to safeguard our coastal industries and communities”. The plan outlines a nationally cooperative approach to achieving ecologically sustainable development through integrated coastal zone management (ICZM). The plan can be viewed online at



Cotton Catchment Communities CRC

The new Cotton Catchment Communities Cooperative Research Centre has been ramping up its biodiversity research for the cotton industry. As the CRC’s name implies, considerable emphasis is now being placed on research and extension activities associated with natural resource management in partnership with CMAs, agencies and industry. Biodiversity and ecosystem services makes up a sub program in the CRC. The CRC is commencing research on riparian zones, native vegetation, birds, beneficial insects, bats, on farms wetland and enhancing water storages, fish on farms and surface and ground water issues. The CRC would like to hear from anyone wanting information or collaborating in a project. For more information or contact Guy Roth on 0417 223 179.



Problem with carp control?

Researchers at western New South Wales-based Charles Sturt University (CSU) have warned that efforts to eradicate European Carp from waterways could leave native birds with little to eat and vulnerable to population declines. Dr Ian Taylor says many of the bird species in the Murray Darling Basin are now reliant on carp as a main food source because native fish have been depleted. He says current policies on removing carp from waterways need to be reviewed before up to 10 species of water birds face severe population declines and that native fish populations need to be boosted first. (Source: ABC News Online May 17, 2006).


Water trading

The stand-off on interstate water trading is over. An in-principal agreement on a tagged trading system has been reached between NSW, VIC and SA. Read more at

A new CSIRO report says the Murray-Darling basin needs four times more water if it is to maintain its current state of health. Read the media article at






May  2006


Damage to surface waters from mining operations
Letter to the The Editor, Sydney Morning Herald
May 10, 2006

Dear Sir,

The NSW Government’s water recycling plans are welcome and the need for ongoing water restrictions are understood. However it is ironic that, while citizens are being fined $220 for illegally watering gardens, mining companies are being allowed to crack and contaminate major rivers all around the state. This is causing water losses far greater than that resulting from any number of garden hoses.

For example, in the Macarthur region alone, the Lower Cataract River, once a major tributary of the Nepean, has lost 50% of its flow down cracks and fractures, and is badly polluted. The nearby Georges River is also losing flow down cracks. Worse still, BHP Billiton is seeking approval to mine so close to the Upper Cataract River that further cracking is predicted – and this stretch of the river is a conduit for around 7% of Sydney’s supposedly precious water supply. The company is asking the Sydney Catchment Authority to raise the minimum amount of water now being put down the river from the Cataract Dam from 1.3 million litres per day to 5 million litres per day. The extra amount is to cover probable future water loss down new cracks, and to dilute pollutants leaching from the fractures.

The Bargo River, another major tributary of the Nepean, is also likely to be cracked if plans put forward by Centennial Coal are approved by Minister Ian Macdonald. At present, two local collieries – Tahmoor and Douglas  - are pumping an average of  7 tonnes of salt per day into Nepean tributaries, and we wonder why the river is sick!

These examples are from just one area of NSW – as stated above, several other  major rivers in NSW are under threat from permanent damage from mine-induced subsidence. Others have been “re-located” to facilitate mining (Goulburn River, Wambo Creek), while at least one has disappeared altogether (Bowmans Creek). Is short term profit from coal really more important than  conserving the water in our major rivers and creeks for future generations ?

Signed: Caroline Graham (Secretary, Rivers SOS)


The 12th World Lakes Conference in the series of Conferences sponsored by ILEC (International lake Environment Committee, Japan) will be hosted in India by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt of India. The Conference will be held in Jaipur, 260 km from New Delhi, from 28 October to 2 November 2007.
Preliminary announcement is made at:
More details will be available soon.  Plan ahead and attend an exciting meeting.  
Source: Brij Gopal, National Institute of Ecology, email 8 May 2006.

April  2006


SA’s draft Biodiversity Strategy released

The draft Biodiversity Strategy for South Australia, No Species Loss, has been released for public comment. No Species Loss has been prepared to provide a vision for biodiversity conservation and management in SA. The strategy identifies goals and targets for halting species decline. Comments can be submitted up until 2 June 2006. For a copy of the Strategy visit


Grazing damages Murray River forests

Millions of taxpayer dollars will be wasted if cattle grazing continues in Murray River red gum forests and wetlands, according to papers just released by the Royal Society of Victoria. The papers outline clear scientific evidence that grazing is damaging these sensitive areas and also spotlights internal conflicts between government agencies involved in management of the internationally significant Barmah wetlands (read a media article at The papers have been recently published in a special issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, Barmah-Millewa Forest: indigenous heritage, ecological challenge. Vol 117, No. 1 following a symposium held on 30 June 2005. The Proceedings are available for purchase ($58) from the Royal Society of Victoria (contact by phone 03 9663 5259 or on the web


Restoring aquatic habitat on central-west farm

Central West farmers Ambrose and Lisa Doolan are developing a demonstration reach - a stretch of stream that shows the benefits of restoring aquatic habitat – on their Castlereagh River property,'Toorawandi'. Deep river holes are important refuge areas for native fish in unregulated rivers and creeks, but willow invasion has encouraged silting in an historic deep hole on 'Toorawandi'. The Doolans will poison the willows and remove the silt to restore the hole. As well, a woody structure will be embedded upstream of the deep hole to encourage natural scouring to maintain it. They received funding for the work through the Central West Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and NSW DPI will organise relevant permits and guidelines and help with the design for the structure. Read more at



South-western Australia identified as hotspot for extinction

South-western Australia has been identified as a likely hotspot for species extinction in the future due to global warming, in a study released by scientists in Sweden. The study, which has been published in the journal Conservation Biology (vol. 20, issue 2, April 2006), examined 25 biodiversity hotspots and estimated extinction rates in these areas using both species-area and endemic-area relationships. The study predicts that <1 to 43% of the endemic biota (on average 11.6%) species could be driven to extinction if current climate and habitat change projections continue for the next 100 years. Especially vulnerable hotspots were the Cape Floristic Region, Caribbean, Indo-Burma, Mediterranean Basin, Southwest Australia, and Tropical Andes, where plant extinctions per hotspot sometimes exceeded 2000 species. Read the article online at



Aral sea increasing in size
Fresh water is flowing back to the stricken Aral Sea, raising hopes of a return to its former glory days. For decades, waters of the fourth-largest lake in the world were systematically diverted for agriculture and industry by the USSR government. As a result, the Aral Sea shrank to a small percentage of its original volume. Now it is refilling, thanks to $84 million the World Bank has poured into a project to increase the flow of the sea's tributaries. Since 2005, the surface of the northern sea has grown by a third. The influx is great news for wildlife. The North Aral Sea is now considerably less salty, bringing back biodiversity, according to the World Bank's project leader. Source: New Scientist, 8 April 2006

Once a Terminal Case, the North Aral Sea Shows New Signs of Life. Science 14 April 2006, DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5771.183

New Zealand announces national freshwater strategy
The New Zealand government announced a suite of actions to protect and improve national freshwater resources.  The Sustainable Water Programme of Action will develop, for the first time, a strategic and nationally consistent approach to managing New Zealand's freshwater resources.  Some of the actions agreed today (April 10 2006) include scoping national policy statements and national environmental standards for freshwater management; and investigating criteria to identify nationally outstanding (or significant) natural water bodies. All actions are based on the continued management of water by regional councils and as a public resource.  The Programme will be developed in partnership with local government, sector and interest groups. We will be organising a series of meetings around the country to discuss the future of the programme in the near future. We will contact you with confirmed dates and locations. 

For more information about the implementation package please visit the following websites:
Ministry for the Environment-  Sustainable Water Programme of Action home page
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - Sustainable Water Programme of Action home page
Beehive Website :Press Release


March 2006


Full text of consensus statement published:

Summary: Freshwater ecosystems (including inland saline wetlands and mound springs) are among the more imperilled ecosystems in the world. Australia is no exception, but their protection has lagged behind programs of terrestrial protection. Freshwater protected areas are an essential component of biodiversity conservation programs, but a systematic approach to their development in Australia has been slow, and hindered by incomplete ecosystem inventories at State and national levels. We examine this problem and suggest avenues for action. Further, while there is no shortage of relevant legislation and policy for protecting inland aquatic ecosystems in Australia, some protective mechanisms have not yet been used, many years after their development. In some places ‘protection’ has been only partially applied without regard to important issues of hydrologic connectivity – with species extinction as a direct consequence. The most urgent priority is to identify those aquatic ecosystems most at risk. A comprehensive national assessment of the conservation status of freshwater ecosystems should be undertaken immediately. Such an assessment would provide both a platform and an impetus for the systematic expansion of the nation’s freshwater protected areas. Political will and community support are then essential for effective conservation, utilising the plethora of conservation and management tools available.

Reference: Kingsford, RT & Nevill, J (2006) Urgent need for a systematic expansion of freshwater protected areas in Australia.  Pacific Conservation Biology 12(1):7-14.

Full text including footnotes: item number 29.



February 2006



Do freshwater protected areas actually work? Revised bibliography 22/2/06. Comment invited. Jon Nevill.



January 2006

Fisheries department lists Lachlan River catchment as “endangered”

The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Ian MacDonald, listed the Aquatic Ecological Community in the Natural Drainage System of the Lowland Catchment of the Lachlan River as an Endangered Ecological Community in Part 3 of Schedule 4 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (gazetted 9 December 2005, An interim order has been put in place to allow the continuation of recreational and commercial fishing in the Lachlan endangered ecological community, pending a species impact statement on the activity.


Surprise: ibis breeding in the thousands on Lower Lachlan

The first major water bird breeding event on the lower Lachlan River in five years has occurred, with a 15,000-strong straw-necked ibis colony along Merrowie Creek, west of Hillston. Other waterbirds have also gathered in the area, including royal spoonbills, pink-eared ducks and the endangered freckled and blue-billed ducks. The breeding event appears to be in response to a replenishment of flow delivered by State Water from an allocation provided to the environment earlier this year following good catchment rains. An abundance of food such as caterpillars and locusts resulting from good local spring rains may have also been an important trigger. Read more at


Breeding in the Barmah

Deep in the Barmah forest (along the Murray River between Echuca and Tocumwal) there's a breeding frenzy going on, the likes of which have not been seen for five years. Biodiversity in the forest appears to be reveling following a massive release of water that the NSW and VIC governments have been saving up for five years in dams. Beginning with the first release in October 2005, the two state governments plan to release 500 billion litres into the forest, sustaining a five-month-long flood. The Age newspaper reported in late November 2005 that stands of old red gums were soaking in a metre of water and that the wetland was alive and teeming with lush growth, birds, frogs, huge dragonflies, black snakes, turtles and fish and the great egret was breeding on the Victorian side of the Barmah for the first time in 30 years. The flooding represents the biggest environmental flow in Australia's history. (


Water flow is helping the murray cod

Murray cod larvae have been discovered in the River Murray for the first time in years - a major sign that environmental efforts to mimic natural water flows may be working. SA Research and Development Institute fish scientists have made the larvae sightings in the Chowilla anabranch, near Renmark. (Source Jemma Chapman, The Advertiser.) Read more at,5936,17788097%5E2682,00.html.


Water sharing plans progress

Macro Water Sharing Plans are currently being presented by the Department of Natural Resources for catchments around the state. The latest Macro Water Plans aim to protect the health of the state's unregulated rivers and follow on from water sharing plans already in place for the regulated rivers. A recent meeting at Coffs Harbour, revealed that the first priority with the Plans is to maintain acceptable environmental flows, acknowledgement of basic landholder rights to draw on water for domestic use and stock watering, then town water supply and finally along the priority line, water for irrigation purposes. Part of the Macro Water Sharing Plans include the ability to trade water under certain circumstances in the unregulated rivers and streams. To view the water sharing plans online go to (Source: ABC Rural news online 19/01/2006)


NSW wetland concerns

In the far south west of NSW, where the Murray River meets the Murrumbidgee, there's growing concern about the health of the regions wetlands. The Junction Farmers Group, claims the wetlands on the lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee, below Balranald, are in desperate need of a drink. The country at the junction of the Murray and Murrumbidgee is home to river redgums, lignum forest, and reed beds. It's also one of the eastern most nesting sites of the endangered Regent Parrot. But landholders say it's more than ten years since there's been a big enough flush in both rivers at the same time, to overflow the banks and fill the wetlands. Lance Howley from the Junction Farmers Group says the environment is suffering because of poor water management. He says a potential flooding event last year didn't happen because upstream irrigators were allowed to pump off allocation or supplementary water. The Department of Natural Resources says access to supplementary water is enshrined in water sharing plans. But the Department's David Harriss says the impact of supplementary flows on the downstream environment is being considered as part of a review of the NSW water sharing plans. That review is due to report mid next year. (Source: ABC Rural news online Tuesday, 17/01/2006)


Early settlement fish populations

A new report has compiled historical evidence of native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin at the time of European settlement — from the diaries of the first explorers. Download the report at$FILE/Fish%20history%20in%20MDB.pdf


Tree plantations can suck streams dry

Planting trees willy-nilly to counter increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may actually result in other environmental damage. An international team publishing in  Science argues that while tree plantations can be an effective tool for slowing CO2 concentrations, the wrong plantings in the wrong area at the wrong time can suck streams dry and turn fresh water salty. "We wanted to determine the trade-offs of trying to solve one environmental problem by manipulating another part of the landscape," says Australian contributor Dr Damian Barrett, principal research scientist with CSIRO Land and Water in Canberra. Source ABC News Online.



Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming

As the Earth warms, many species are likely to disappear, often because of changing disease dynamics. Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming. Seventeen years ago, in the mountains of Costa Rica, the Monteverde harlequin frog (Atelopus sp.) vanished along with the golden toad (Bufo periglenes). An estimated 67% of the 110 or so species of Atelopus, which are endemic to the American tropics, have met the same fate, and a pathogenic chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is implicated. Analysing the timing of losses in relation to changes in sea surface and air temperatures, we conclude with 'very high confidence' (> 99%, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) that large-scale warming is a key factor in the disappearances. We propose that temperatures at many highland localities are shifting towards the growth optimum of Batrachochytrium, thus encouraging outbreaks. With climate change promoting infectious disease and eroding biodiversity, the urgency of reducing greenhouse-gas concentrations is now undeniable. (Source:

Catchment and Natural Resource Management Conference

A national two-day conference on the most recent scientific, policy and management developments in catchment and natural resource management will be held in Albury on 23-24 February 2006. The conference will focus on recent developments in Federal and State policies which impact on strategic planning and investment; environmental water allocations; long-term shifts in terrestrial vegetation and maximising environmental outcomes from effectively managing terrestrial vegetation in agricultural landscapes. The range of speakers include senior CRC, University and CSIRO researchers, top level policy managers in the Federal and State Departments; and catchment management authorities. A key element of the conference will be case studies which illuminate key scientific and policy issues. For more information see the website or telephone Denise McQueen on (03) 8534 5021 or email

Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany conference

To be held at The University of Sydney on the 13-15th February 2006. Guest speakers include: Bob Creese from NSW Fisheries on invasive Caulerpa taxifolia, John Raven from the University of Dundee on environmental change and primary productivity of the world's oceans, and Brett Neilan on toxic cyanobacteria. Note that John Raven's lecture is open to the public. Otherwise late registrations and day registrations are available. For more details go to he website at




December 2005

The Society of Wetland Scientists, together with the Australian Marine Science Association, is holding a conference in Cairns in July 2006. The themes are as follows:

SWS Streams

  1. Wetlands and water quality
  2. Rejuvenation of damaged natural wetlands
  3. Biodiversity in wetlands
  4. Sustainability of managed and constructed wetlands
  5. Wetlands and global changes in climate and sea level
  6. Social, economic and political pressures on wetlands
  7. Indicators of change in wetlands- tools for managing change

AMSA Streams

  1. Catchments and corals - land-sea interactions in the tropics
  2. Catchments to Coasts - linking management and science
  3. Coastal geomorphology and geology
  4. Coastal oceanography
  5. Estuaries
  6. Fish, fisheries and aquaculture
  7. Marine education
  8. Threats to coastal environments
  9. Tropical and temperate marine ecology
  10. Water quality in Australian catchments
Abstracts for the SWS themes must be submitted by 14 February 2006.
More information from


Senate Inquiry into Protected Areas

The Australian Senate has announced an inquiry into protected areas to be referred to the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee inquiry and report by 30 November 2006.

Public submissions have been called for with a closing date of Wednesday, 1 March 2006.

Terms of Reference:

The funding and resources available to meet the objectives of Australia's national parks, other conservation reserves and marine protected areas, with particular reference to:
a. the values and objectives of Australia's national parks, other conservation reserves and marine protected areas;
b. whether governments are providing sufficient resources to meet those objectives and their management requirements;
c. any threats to the objectives and management of our national parks, other conservation reserves and marine protected areas;
d. the responsibilities of governments with regard to the creation and management of national parks, other conservation reserves and marine protected areas, with particular reference to long-term plans; and e. the record of governments with regard to the creation and management of national parks, other conservation reserves and marine protected areas.

The Committee invites written submissions from interested individuals and organisations, preferably in electronic form sent by email, to The email must include full postal address and contact details.

Alternatively, submissions may be sent to The Secretary, Senate Environment, Communications Information Technology and the Arts References Committee Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600, or faxed to 02 6277 5818.
Submissions must be received by no later than Wednesday, 1 March 2006.

Submissions become committee documents and are made public only after a decision by the Committee. Persons making submissions must not release them without the approval of the Committee. Submissions are covered by parliamentary privilege but the unauthorised release of them is not. Inquiries from hearing and speech impaired people should be directed to the Parliament House TTY number (02) 6277 7799. Adobe also provides tools for the blind and visually impaired to access PDF documents. These tools are available at: If you require any special arrangements in order to enable you to participate in a committee inquiry, please contact the committee secretary.

For further information, contact: Committee Secretary, Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, Department of the Senate, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, Phone:      +61 2 6277 3526, E-mail:
Source: Australian Parliament website:

Listing of wild rivers in New South Wales
In November 2005 the Minister for then Environment issued a media release which I have attached in full below. Immediately after this attachment is a second release made on Dec 8 by the DEC about the wild rivers.  The wild rivers were declared in the Government Gazette on the 2 December 2005, page 9911, or page 5 of part 2 of the Pdf version in the link below:$FILE/Government%20Gazette%202%20December%202005%20Part%202.pdf

The Washpool Creek sub-catchment falls within Washpool National Park. Washpool National Park and the adjacent Gibraltar Range National Park form part of the World Heritage listed Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia (CERRA). The remote and rugged landscape has limited European disturbance to cedar cutting, localised patches of logging and bush grazing and the entire sub-catchment is wilderness.

Forbes and Upper Hastings sub-catchments occur within Werrikimbe National Park and form part of the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia (CERRA) World Heritage area.

The Kowmung River and catchment have attracted passionate interest from bushwalkers and nature lovers for over 100 years but have also been the site of natural resource use and of major mining and forestry proposals. Most of the catchment was protected by establishing Kanangra-Boyd National Park.

The Brogo sub-catchment is located in the Bega catchment in south east NSW. The highly fertile Bega Valley has undergone substantial land clearing and the rugged and mountainous upper reaches of the catchment provide important examples of the catchment's original features and freshwater fauna and flora. The Brogo sub-catchment is immediately upstream of the Brogo Dam and provides water for the Bega district's town and irrigators.

“Ecosystems & Human Well-being: Wetlands & Water Synthesis” launched at Ramsar COP9T
Tuesday, November 08, 2005 | Kampala, UGANDA
Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Peter Bridgewater, launched the fifth synthesis report by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), “Ecosystems & Human Well-being: Wetlands & Water Synthesis” during the opening ceremony of COP9. The Wetlands and Water synthesis was designed for the Ramsar Convention to meet the need for information about the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and sought to strengthen the link between scientific knowledge and decision-making for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

Highlighting the findings from the report, Bridgewater, who was also a member of the MA Board, noted that, “The degradation and loss of wetlands is more rapid than that of other ecosystems. Similarly, the status of both freshwater and coastal wetland species is deteriorating faster than those of other ecosystems.”

He also stressed the need to balance the desire to add more sites to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance with ensuring their effective management and representativeness. He called for: synergies among biodiversity-related Conventions; better environmental governance frameworks; and capacity building.

In a special presentation on the Wetlands and Water synthesis during a COP9 Plenary session, Synthesis Team Co-Chair, Rebecca D’Cruz, stressed that ecosystem services are vital to human well-being, lamenting that many of these services are overused, mismanaged or degraded, and highlighted policy choices available to reduce wetland degradation while maintaining benefits.

Commenting on the accelerated wetland degradation, she highlighted a reduction of human well-being, especially in developing countries, coupled with an increased demand for wetland services. She said policy decisions must address trade-offs between current and future use, and emphasized cross sectoral and ecosystem approaches. Finally, she noted that the report would help set the future agenda for Ramsar, and could be used to raise awareness on wetlands.

Read more



October 2005


CSIRO publication: managing change in water-related structural adjustment 

According to a report published in September 2005: "If adjustment is impeded, the most significant adverse impacts are often on the capacity of the most talented in a district or an industry to innovate. Australian history is rich with stories of the adverse effects of attempting to shore up existing businesses experiencing financial difficulties rather than allowing others the opportunity to enter and existing businesses to adjust and expand. There are many opportunities for governments to facilitate and expedite change.

The future of Australia and its people – at the regional and at the National level – lies with processes that allow and encourage autonomous changes to occur. Where unacceptably adverse impacts occur, whether on people or the environment, experience suggests they are most effectively managed using separate policy processes. In all cases, the first best option is always to address underlying policy failures and not use restrictions on adjustment as a means to postpone the need to do so.  

Given the capital gains tax implications of buying and selling water and the report’s focus on ways to expedite adjustment, the report identifies an opportunity to use either voluntary buyback and/or compulsory acquisition as a means to increase the quantity of water available to enhance environmental flows."

McColl, JC & Young, MD (2005) Managing change: Australian structural adjustment lessons for water, CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra. 53 pp.

Key threatening process: mining subsidence
The NSW Scientific committee has made the following final determinations from 9 June 2005 to 30 September 2005.

·         Alteration of habitat following subsidence due to longwall mining. The main impact of underground coal mining (which occurs in the northern, southern and western coalseams of NSW) is subsidence, associated cracking of valley floors and creeklines and effects on surface and groundwater hydrology and dependent ecosystems.

For details of the determinations go to


CMA biodiversity protection priorities

Over the next decade Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) in NSW will put hundreds of millions of dollars into natural resource management activities on private and public land. These funds have the potential to make a major contribution to the protection and restoration of biodiversity. One of the biggest challenges facing CMAs is ensuring that the types of activities funded have real benefits for long-term biodiversity conservation and are undertaken in places where they are most needed.

CMAs throughout the state are formulating priorities for investment that will influence how money is spent on the ground. These priorities will be expressed through individual Catchment Management Plans (CAPs) to be finalised by the end of 2005. CMAs need the resources and skills of government agencies involved in NRM and support of the community to operate effectively. The NSW Department of Environment and Conservation is providing support through the provision of a DEC staff member to each CMA throughout the state. In some areas joint projects are being developed to help identify priorities for investment in biodiversity conservation.

There will be opportunities to comment on CAPs when they go on public exhibition at the end of the year. There are also opportunities to obtain funding through CMA for projects that have on-ground biodiversity benefits and help CAP targets. For more information about your local CMA see  


Biodiversity banking proposal

NSW Dept of Environment and Conservation has recently consulted on an overview paper for biodiversity certification and biodiversity banking in coastal areas. The proposal seeks to correct market failure by recognising biodiversity values, and create new opportunities for private sector conservation management of land to complement the State's national parks and other protected areas. A second paper - BioBanking: A Biodiversity Offsets and Banking Scheme (Working Paper) - will be published shortly. The purpose of the paper is two-fold. Firstly, to form the basis of discussions with key stakeholders in order to develop the detail of the scheme further. Secondly, to invite comments or suggestions on the paper from other interested stakeholders. The paper will be published, along with all other documentation on BioBanking at in November. Consultation will close on 31st January 2006.  


Paroo wetlands, Aboriginal values and the Ramsar Convention

The wetlands of Nocoleche Nature Reserve and Paroo-Darling National Park on the Paroo River in NSW are being considered for nomination to the Ramsar Convention. The Baakandji and Budjiti people whose country includes the Paroo River in NSW are working with NSW DEC to progress the nomination. A cultural mapping project has been carried out assist the broader community understand the traditional and contemporary values the Baakandji and Budjiti people have for the Paroo River. The project will be presented as a case study on the Aboriginal values by the Budjiti representatives to the Convention of Parties meeting in Uganda in November 2005. It will contribute to the debate on how the Convention can better incorporate indigenous cultural values. It has been funded by National NAP/NHT, Aboriginal Heritage Program, Policy and Science and Parks and Wildlife Co-management.


Yanga – protection for river red gums in the Riverina

Land recently purchased in the Riverina region is set to become the newest addition to the national parks system. Yanga, an 80,000 hectare property located on the Stuart Highway between Sydney and Adelaide, was home to the largest privately owned Red River Gum forest in Australia. Originally purchased in the 1830s, the property has extensive Murrumbidgee River frontage and is rich in natural, European and Aboriginal cultural heritage. DEC was invited to consider purchasing the property from the Black Family who have owned the property for about 80 years. The Black family have always recognised the unique natural and cultural heritage values of the property. They had even employed a Heritage Coordinator to identify early European and Aboriginal sites on the property to help avoid any accidental disturbance through station or other activities. The park is expected to inject some $8 million into the local economy and employ up to eight local staff within the first 18 months, with a further 100 jobs created indirectly in the long term. Yanga will join the nearby World Heritage listed Mungo National Park.


Apply for fish habitat rehabilitation funds

Money raised by recreational fishing licences has been placed into special trusts to improve recreational fishing in NSW. This year $360,000 has been allocated for the Fish Habitat Grant Program to encourage the community to undertake fish habitat rehabilitation projects. Expressions of interest are sought from individuals, clubs, groups or local councils interested in rehabilitating fish habitats in freshwater and saltwater areas of NSW. Grants of up to $30,000 are available where matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis (cash and/or in-kind support). For more information contact Milly Hobson on (02) 6765 4591 or Megan Gallagher on (02) 6626 1333 or go to the website


Carp breeding hotspots to be identified

The Fisheries Aquatic Ecosystems Research section of NSW Dept Primary Industries is currently involved in research to control carp in the Murray-Darling Basin. One project is identifying the Basin's carp spawning hotspots and examining the relationship between those hotspots and subsequent recruitment of carp. A second project, to start in 2006/07, will set up a demonstration site in the Barmah-Millewa Forest to investigate ways of regulating water height and flow to discourage carp spawning. For more info contact Fisheries at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre on (02) 6959 9028 or go to their website at


Queensland wild rivers legislation

The QLD parliament has recently passed the Wild Rivers Act 2005 (proclamation 14 October 2005), with the purpose not to identify or designate any wild rivers but to set up a framework for declaring rivers to be wild. In this respect the Act is unlike the only other piece of similar Australian legislation - Victoria's Heritage Rivers Act 1992 which incorporated listing of 18 rivers. Once declared, wild rivers in QLD are to be given a level of protection which is less than a national park but greater than that achieved by applying principles of ecologically sustainable development. The original policy identified 19 potential wild rivers, however conservationists have called for 60 rivers throughout QLD to be considered. At present, a declaration for the Statten River is under preparation, and presumably others will follow. The process of declaring a wild river involves an initial nomination by the Minister (members of the public are not entitled to make nominations), a public consultation process followed by formal declaration. Once declared, a wild river area will be divided into two units - ‘high preservation area’ (a 1km buffer around the river and major tributaries and wetlands or other significant features such as gorge country associated with the river) and the ‘preservation area’ (the remaining part of the nominated area). Prohibition of activities will be most stringent in the high preservation area and will include restrictions on vegetation clearing, agriculture and mining, and water extraction (to be limited to 1% of median annual flow). Source: Allens Arthur Robinson, June 2005 Focus, Environment & Planning pamphlet ( More information can also be obtained from the QLD government Natural Resources and Mines website at


Salinity at the Murray mouth

Up to 30 per cent of the internationally renowned wetlands at the Murray River mouth will be without plant and bird life this summer as salinity levels reach three times that of sea water. Read the media release at <

Cane toad update

Cane toads (Bufo marinus) are using roads to spread through Australia's tropical north and are moving at rates faster than previously thought. Rick Shine and co-workers from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences radio-tracked the toads when they arrived at Fogg Dam near Darwin, in January 2005. The toad front is also moving in the order of 70 km per year, much faster than the 10-20 km previously thought. The researchers observed that the toads prefer to avoid travelling through vegetation and breed in shallow water with a gently sloping edge, surrounded by open ground. They suggest that toad control should focus on leaving roadside vegetation intact to reduce their movement. Read more at

In August the federal government announced the allocation of an extra $3 million to fund biological control research at CSIRO along with $600 000 for the WA government’s cane toad task force. Read the media release at


New biosphere reserve at Wentworth

UNESCO has accepted the Barkindji Biosphere Reserve in NSW as part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The reserve is Australia's thirteenth biosphere reserve, covering more than 26,000 hectares of floodplains, wetland and open plain country along the Murray River around Wentworth in south western NSW. A biosphere reserve includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Other NSW biosphere reserves are Kosciuszko National Park and Yathong National Park. There are four biosphere reserves in Victoria, 2 each in SA and WA, and 1 each in Tasmania and NT. Details at


Can breeding programs save amphibians?

Amphibian experts are expected to urge a global captive breeding program to slow what they describe as the catastrophic extinction rate threatening a third of the world's frogs and salamanders. Read more at


Valuing wetlands

The Wetlands Centre, Shortland NSW, is planning the 2005 Wetland Innovation Series Forum to be held on October Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 October. This year’s forum theme is ‘Valuing Wetlands: identifying, integrating and promoting the economic,social, cultural and ecological value of Australia ’s wetlands.’ The Wetlands Innovation Series is all about delivering individuals and organisations that are managing or potentially impacting on wetlands, with:
- access to new approaches to wetland management including the latest research
- a toolkit of innovative wetland management tools
- direct contact with leading wetland management researchers and practitioners
- opportunities to contribute through targeted and relevant facilitated sessions
- opportunities to network and develop partnerships amongst government, community and industry representatives who have an interest and/or role in wetland management.
For more information go to or contact Tess Hilleard (Project Officer) on 0427 445 665.




June 2005


Silver perch draft recovery plan

In February 2005, NSW Fisheries launched a detailed draft recovery plan for one of the State’s most popular recreational angling fish – the silver perch – which once occurred in large numbers in the Murray-Darling region. Decades of overfishing has taken a toll on silver perch populations, which have been listed as vulnerable since 2000. The recovery plan aims to enhance the few isolated populations left and return wild stocks to a sustainable level, which would be a boost for recreational angling and tourism in rural and regional NSW. Submissions on the silver perch recovery plan are now closed, however it can be viewed online at


Licence revenue used to fund fish habitat rehabilitation

The Recreational Fishing Freshwater trust has set aside $300,000 over three years to rehabilitate freshwater fish habitats, with an initial $110,000 to fund 14 small projects at a range of popular fishing spots, including around Brewarrina, Condobolin, Wagga Wagga, the Hawkesbury and the Parramatta River. The funds, which come from licence fees from recreational anglers, will be used to help restore floodplain and freshwater wetlands, enhance fish passage (including building fish ramps and ladders), re-snagging, and weed removal and restoring vegetation. A table showing the range of projects can be viewed at:

Sonar to track fish in NSW rivers

In an Australian first, scientists from the NSW Department of Primary Industries are using a high-resolution underwater sonar camera to measure fish migrations in the state’s rivers. The technology, which works without interrupting the natural behaviour of fish, was developed in the mid-1990s by the US Navy for divers to survey mines attached to the hull of ships, but this is the first time underwater sonar cameras will be used in Australia for scientific research. So far, the unit has allowed the remote observation of fish in areas where scientists have had difficulty observing them in the past, particularly in muddy or dirty waters or at night. It is common knowledge that dams, weirs and floodgates block fish migrations. The technology allows scientists to see how fish react when they are confronted with such barriers and the information may then be used for better management of freshwater fish populations. Read the complete NSW Fisheries press release at

Rare spotted gudgeon found in the west

For only the second time in more than 20 years a new population of the endangered purple spotted gudgeon has been found in inland NSW. The rare population of more than 70 fish was found in a small isolated pool in a tributary of the Macquarie River. They are prized fish in the aquarium trade and were once very common in NSW inland rivers; however they are now seldom seen in the wild. Read the press release at


Reduced environmental flows to the Hawkesbury-Nepean river

As part of the NSW government’s Level 3 water restrictions for Sydney, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains (effective from 1 June 2005) environmental flows released to the Hawkesbury-Nepean River will be decreased by about half. Some fear this reduced flow may lead to increased nutrient and contaminant levels and thus contribute to environmental problems (eg.  recurrence of the infestations of the aquatic weed Salvinia, which drastically affected the river last summer).

Recovery plan for Macquarie Marshes (and Gwydir Wetlands)

NSW Premier Bob Carr has announced a $13.4 million Wetlands Recovery Program to help the Macquarie Marshes and the Gwydir Wetlands. Read the media release at

Inventory of Wetlands in the MIA

A stocktake of wetlands in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) has recently been completed and the results compiled in a colourful new report, An Inventory Of Wetlands In The Eastern MIA (Harrison and Roberts 2005). The inventory is a compilation of existing knowledge on the wetland resources in the eastern MIA. Principal sources of information included existing reports and publications, and the local and regional knowledge of individuals.

For almost 40 wetlands identified in the study area, information has been compiled on the following themes: biophysical attributes; ecological and cultural values; ecological condition; threats; management activities and plans; and a reference list.  An aerial photograph also illustrates each wetland.

Copies of the Inventory have been placed in local and regional libraries and with other relevant organisations. Additional copies are available for $25 and further information is available from Louise Harrison at Murrumbidgee Irrigation (phone 02 69620200). Funding for this project has come from MIA EnviroWise and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP).

Sandstone swamps listed as endangered under the EPBC Act

The Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone in the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Southern Highlands and Bombala regions have been listed as endangered ecological communities under the federal EPBC Act. They were listed because of their restricted distribution and vulnerability to ongoing threats caused by introduced animals, development, clearing, weeds and fire [and perhaps local water extraction]. More information is available at

Salinity threatens biodiversity

At least 450 flowering plants and 400 invertebrate fauna species are at risk of extinction as a direct result of salinity in Western Australia’s agricultural zone, according to the findings of a recent survey by the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), the WA Museum, the University of Western Australia and the University of Adelaide. In addition to species extinctions, all remaining remnants of many valley-floor wetland, shrubland and woodland communities could disappear because of salinisation. (The survey also found 25 new invertebrate species and 6 new plant species revealing the lack of knowledge about the region’s biodiversity in general.) The survey was part of an ongoing program to document the WA’s biodiversity and conservation status. A summary of the survey will be released by CALM in the next few months.

These findings will be relevant to the monitoring and predicting of salinity impacts on biodiversity in eastern Australia.

Murray River Red Gums continue to decline

A recent tri-state report released by the Murray Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) revealed that the number of dead and dying River Red Gums has increased from 51 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2004. Surveys of tree health were conducted at 155 sites along a 1450 km stretch of the Murray River from the Gunbower-Koondrook-Pericoota State Forests to Mannum in South Australia. Water extractions, reduced flow and lack of periodic flooding combined with recent drought conditions are thought to be the main causes of Red Gum forest decline. However, there is also continuing pressure on the forests from logging. Read the MDBC report online at Source: this is an edited version of an article appearing in the National Parks Journal, Vol. 49, No. 3 (June-July 2005) published by the National Parks Association of NSW.

In an attempt address this, the SA government and NSW Murray Wetlands Working Group agreed to deliver water to thousands of stressed river red gums in the Riverland. In March 2005, at least 3.6 gigalitres of River Murray water was pumped into bone-dry creeks and basins on the 20,000-hectare Chowilla flood plain near Renmark began. Read the press releases at and,5936,15312287%255E2682,00.html

Water management and ecological outcomes in the Murray Darling Basin

Authors: Sophia Bickford1, Graham Watson2, Ian Warren1, Tom Weir2, David Yeates2 and Judy West1 (1. CSIRO Plant Industry, PO Box 1600 Canberra ACT 2601, 2. CSIRO Entomology, PO Box 1700 Canberra ACT 2601)

Within the CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship, we are assessing how water management regimes influence the distribution of vegetation and their associated faunal communities in the Murray Darling Basin. To do this we are compiling distribution data from the CSIRO National Collections of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates with data from various ecological survey datasets, and the data from Australia’s Virtual Herbarium, and other institutions.  This will be an extremely rich mega-dataset, with approximately  400,000 distribution points for over 5,500 species found in the Basin, by far the biggest dataset assembled for this purpose.  To assess the power of the data in influencing water management decision-making, we will be conducting a number of tests of the dataset.  For example, we will be investigating the extent to which the dataset samples the range of environments found in the basin, at the different scales of river corridor, floodplain, and basin-wide.  We will also assess the usefulness of the data for predictive modelling at each scale of investigation  The data provides an opportunity to evaluate the contribution of the Living Murray icon sites to conservation of biodiversity in the Basin.  We will also use the biological data in conjunction with comprehensive flood histories to predict the responses of vegetation communities and other biota to changes in water management. 

New Coongie Lakes NP

A large part of the Innamincka Station around Coongie Lakes in South Australia's far north-east is to be turned into national park under a cooperative agreement between conservation and industry groups in SA. The 300 square kilometre area, which has been part of the cattle station for the past 101 years, includes five freshwater lakes as well as sand dune country. The petroleum industry also has a considerable interest in the area. Despite these multiple interests, the area will be dedicated as a national park following many years of campaigning and negotiation. Increased understanding between the groups has led to an historic agreement between the station owner (S Kidman and Company who has opted to voluntarily relinquish the land) the SA government, pastoralists and the petroleum industry. Source: ABC radio and online news 10 June 2005.

Weed chokes Victorian waterways and wetlands

A recent crisis meeting in Barooga of scientists and decision-makers from throughout the Murray-Darling Basin has highlighted the severity of arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea Michx) infestations in the waterways of the region. The weed was first identified in 1962 near Katandra West and Wunghnu. Major spread began in the 1980s and now it is choking many waterways and wetlands in the Murray Valley, Broken Creek and Murray River. With prolific seed production and an extensive underwater network of rhizomes, roots, corms and submerged rosettes, the plant has now gained a strangle-hold on waterways in northern Victoria. More details are can be found at

Crayfish returned to the Murray River

Researchers from the the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre say they are keen to reintroduce murray crayfish to Mallee stretches of the Murray River to see if the world's second largest crayfish can still survive in the area. A six-month study last year covered 700 kilometres of the river from Nyah to the South Australian border, but captured only 74 murray crayfish. Reasonable populations were found around Swan Hill, Nyah and generally upstream around Wakool Junction. However, downstream of Wakool Junction very few were caught and none were found below Mildura. Future research aims to reintroduce crays fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their progress and gather data about their movements. Source: ABC News Online 7 June 2005. The Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre’s website is at

Cane toads in Western Australia?

As cane toads continue to move across the Top End of Australia there are fears that they will reach the north of Western Australia. Scientists predict that they'll be across to the Kununurra wetlands within one or two wet seasons. The WA Government will spend $900,000 on trapping, surveillance and advertising campaigns across the state to attempt to stop the toads’ progress. Source: ABC News Online 4 June 2005.

In the NT, a $40,000 Envirofund grant has been provided to the conservation group ‘Frogwatch North’ to help install cane toad traps at key wetland sites near Darwin, Palmerston and Bachelor. The project, with the help of community groups aims to limit the spread of the toad.

Back in QLD, the Pest Animal Control CRC has welcomed $1 million worth of funding from the Queensland Government to develop a lethal control agent for the Cane Toad. This funding will enable researchers to search for a Cane Toad-specific toxin, which is currently the ‘strategic gap’ in Cane Toad control, for use in baiting and trapping programs.

The Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage has recently added “the biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by Cane Toads (Bufo marinus)” as a key threateneing process under the EPBC Act.

Water management on farms

A controversial approach to water management on farms, initiated by farmer Peter Andrews, was featured recently on ABC television’s Australian Story. His approach aims to restore the original contours of eroded drainage lines using woody debris and soil, and to ultimately slow water flow and retain moisture in the landscape. Pioneer plants, including weeds are allowed to grow, stabilise the soil, contribute organic matter and improve conditions for the establishment of more desirable plants such as fodder species and native trees. Whilst this practical approach is primarily aimed at restoring agricultural productivity in degraded areas, there may also be ecological benefits. Improvements in ecological health were reported in terms of improved water quality (e.g. clarity) and an increased presence of native fish. To date this intuitive approach to land restoration has been based on the personal experience of one man, although there are now calls for scientists to become involved in monitoring sites and setting up model farms in other areas. Read more at

Scientists hope to restore Iraqi marshes

After being reduced to just 7 per cent of their original extent of nearly 13,000 square kilometres during Saddam Hussein's rule, the marshes of Mesopotamia, thought by some biblical scholars to be the site of the Garden of Eden, may be restored. Much of the marshland had been drained for wheat or dammed for irrigation and the soil became affected by salinity. However, researchers who moved into the marshes and began working with Iraqi scientists after US and British forces toppled Saddam say that the remaining marshland show surprising resilience with high water quality. Read the full media report at

Threatened fish species identification guide

The State Government has produced a colourful, practical guide to help commercial fishers identify threatened species on and around the water. The Threatened and Protected Species Identification Guide for Fishers is being distributed to commercial fishers across NSW and will soon also be available for recreational anglers and conservation groups.The guide includes information on birds and their habitats, fish species, turtle identification, penguins, sharks, whales and other sea mammals. The guide can be obtained by calling the NSW DPI Fisheries Advisory Line on 1300 550 474. More information on threatened fish, aquatic invertebrates and marine plants is available at

Wetlands website

The Wetlands Centre Australia website at has information and links relevant to wetland management and rehabilitation. Themes on the website include activities and workshops, the Ramsar convention, education, wetland ecology and links to other groups and sources of information.

A one-year project highlighted on the website is The NSW Ramsar Wetlands Communications Program (NSW RWCP), an Natural Heritage Trust funded initiative of the NSW Ramsar Managers Network (coordinated by the Department of Environment and Conservation, Dubbo). This Network identified that there was a need to increase the awareness, appreciation and value of the Ramsar Convention as a key tool for the conservation and wise use of wetlands among government and the broader community. This communications program began on 1 st July 2004 to address this need and has been funded for one year.



Lobster Recovery Row
2 June 2005
The Tasmanian State Government has been accused of hypocrisy over the newly-released draft recovery plan for the giant freshwater lobster. The plan has reignited debate over how close to streams logging should be allowed. Conservationists say the plan won't stop sediments from upstream damaging lobster habitats. But the manager of resource management and conservation at DPIWE, John Whittington, says the plan strikes a good balance between protecting the lobster and the needs of forestry.
The department is calling for public comment on the plan. Copies are available from the DPIWE website, or by phoning the department. You have until the 27th of June 2005 to give them your feedback.
Todd Walsh: giant freshwater lobster recovery team; John Whittington: the manager of resource management and conservation at DPIWE.



March 2005

NCC loses water challenge

The Nature Conservation Council has lost its challenge to the Gwydir Regulated River Plan. The NCC argued in the Land and Environment Court that the Gwydir Plan was invalid because it failed to give priority to the environment in terms of water allocations. The Court found that the Plan was generally consistent with water management principles in the Water Management Act and provides for water sharing generally in accordance with the Water Management Act and established rules. This decision was made notwithstanding the finding that the Minister for Natural Resources had failed to satisfy the statutory requirement to set aside water for environmental health prior to allocating water for irrigation and other consumptive purposes. The Nature Conservation Council of NSW is calling for the Minister for Natural Resources to immediately review all the water sharing plans across the state. Sources: and

Record penalty for illegal clear of Gwydir Wetlands

The Federal Court of Australia has imposed a $450 000 penalty on NSW farmer Ronald Greentree and his company for contravening the EPBC Act by clearing, ploughing and wheat-cropping the Windella Ramsar site. The 100 hectares site is one of four areas collectively known as the Ramsar Gwydir Wetlands, designated under the Ramsar Convention in June 1999. The Ramsar Gwydir Wetlands cover 823 hectares in north-west New South Wales, about 80 kilometres west of Moree. For more information on the Federal Court decision go to

Unlocking the mystery of the deadly frog fungus

James Cook University has received Natural Heritage Trust funding to research the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus, which is found in 45 native frog species. It is not yet known exactly how the fungus kills the frogs but it may release toxins that are absorbed through the skin, or - given that frogs drink and breathe through their skins - it may directly affect water uptake and respiration. For the media release and links go to

Successful fishway trials

Trials of new fishways in the lower reaches of the Murray appear to be a success, with 12 fish species and more than 4,000 individuals using the fishways in four weeks over January. With most native species reduced to 10 per cent of their pre-European populations, the million dollar fishways are designed to help fish reach previously cut-off upstream breeding grounds. Dr Qifeng Ye from the South Australian Research and Development Institute, says January trials have indicated more than 30 species and a million fish a year will use the fishways. Source:

State of Australia's Birds 2004

The State of Australia’s Birds 2003 presents an overview of the status of Australia’s birds, the major threats they face and the conservation actions needed (Supplement to Wingspan, vol 13, no. 4, December 2003). A recent second report (Supplement to Wingspan, vol 14, no. 4, December 2004) focuses on wetland birds and can be viewed at

Australian Water Summit, Sydney 2005

The summit is being held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre from 30th - 31st March 2005. It will address “the future of Australia’s water industry” The conference seeks to link policy and decision making with practice and science in the search for sustainable solutions for Australia’s water users and water custodians. This two-day summit brings together Federal, State & Local Government, suppliers, distributors, water management experts, research organisations and water users, with keynote Federal Government presentations. Detail can be viewed at

Frog decline reversal website

This site is focussed on a frog decline reversal project based in Cairns. It includes information on toads, diseases, Cairns local species, among other topics. The site is at: