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The cycle of life in the Gwydir Wetlands recently inspired a new dance from members of the Clontarf Academy at Armidale High School

The 'Ibis Dance' was choreographed and recorded as part of a partnership project between the Armidale Clontarf Academy and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). The partnership project was an opportunity to share insights and learn from one another. To the local Kamilaroi Aboriginal people, the Gwydir River, its floodplain and wetlands (west of Moree) are a significant part of their heritage and connection to country.

The sun was shining and the fish were biting for the annual Bingara Easter fishing competition in March

Anglers put their skills to the test, weighing in 13 cod, 36 golden perch, 49 catfish (from Copeton Dam) and 10 carp.

Luck was on the side of Pallamallawa's Debbie-Jo Macey who won a kayak donated by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

In the months since the fishing competition, Debbie-Jo said the kayak had been wet more often than it's been dry.

"We love fishing - so this kayak is getting a lot of use," Debbie-Jo said.

"We've taken it out on the Macintyre River and eventually we'll get back up to Copeton Dam.

"The cod and yellow belly put up a pretty good fight and we release most of what we catch.

"We are all part of the Pally Fishing Club and have been taking part in the Bingara fishing competition for many years now.

"It's a great sport that our whole family enjoys and we're looking forward to next year's Bingara fishing competition," she said.

OEH's kayak donation is just one way the organisation is encouraging the local community to get out and enjoy local rivers.

Bingara Angler's Club has been working with OEH to improve native fish stocks across the region.

The club runs the local fish hatchery - an important community venture which helps to overcome the effects of cold-water pollution in the Gwydir River, downstream of Copeton Dam.

Senior Wetlands and Rivers Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said cold-water pollution had a significant impact on native fish numbers.

"It interferes with the natural temperature cues that prompt native fish to breed," Mr Albertson said.

"The lower water temperature, at a time when native fish would normally breed, also affects the availability of food, and that means fewer fish.

"The effect can extend hundreds of kilometres along the river.

"OEH recently provided funding to upgrade leaking dams at the hatchery to ensure reliable water levels for hatchery breeding stock and fingerlings.

"By supporting the hatchery and local restocking efforts, we can all play a role in improving fish numbers while also supporting recreational fishing, tourism and communities throughout the north west," he said.

OEH also donated a kayak to the recent Lake Burrendong Fishing Classic.

Science in action - monitoring the Gwydir River system - August 2016

It was a long hot summer in the state's north-west.
The Gwydir and Mehi Rivers had ceased to flow.
Native fish were stranded in isolated refuge pools.
And local communities were worried.

While there was water on the horizon - a planned 'stock and domestic replenishment flow' scheduled to occur in mid-May - it would be too far away. Local environmental water managers were concerned that an extended dry would see many large refuge pools dry down completely with the potential for large losses of native fish. It was also possible that both the timing and the size of the planned 'replenishment flow' could result in water quality issues that may inadvertently harm the remaining stressed fish population.

It had happened before, back in 2009. That event had prompted the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to instigate independent protocols for re-starting the river with a low environmental flow. Trigger periods were established to begin monitoring pools and prepare to deliver low flows to protect key refuge sites. The other key criteria was to restart the rivers with a low flow environmental release well ahead of any higher stock and domestic replenishment flow. This protocol was developed with advice from the Gwydir Environmental Contingency Allowance Operations Advisory Committee (ECAOAC).

Graph of Flows in the Mehi at Moree ML per day

Flows in the Mehi at Moree ML per day

Earlier this year, with refuge pools drying up, OEH set about implementing its low flow protocol for the first time.

Wetlands and Rivers Conservation Officer Jane Humphries was part of a small team of scientists and water managers led by Daryl Albertson, the OEH Gwydir Environmental Water Manager, at the forefront of the decision-making process.

'There were three options available to us,' Ms Humphries said.

'Our first option was to use environmental water held in reserve to restart the river in targeted reaches. We would gradually refill river pools and raise the river flows to low levels before the condition of the major refuge pools started to deteriorate and well before the delivery of the higher replenishment flow. In doing so we aimed to protect the remaining refuge pools and prevent issues from a sudden high flow restarting of the rivers.

'Alternately, we could choose to do nothing and hope that our experiences in 2009 would not be repeated.

'Or, we could hope for rain to return flows to the river.

'There were risks with all three options, but based on science and experience we chose to go ahead with the low flow option,' she said.

Water buybacks and inflows into Copeton Dam which had filled accounts since 2010 meant OEH had access to additional environmental water reserves. These reserves would provide for a low flow during the extended dry spell without compromising carryover for future seasons and other environmental purposes.

But it wasn't as simple as turning on a tap or opening up a weir.

Man standing by small muddy pool

David Preston inspects small pool in Mehi River April 2016

'Before the low flow began David Preston and I conducted field assessments to determine the condition of key refuge pools in targeted sections of the rivers and creeks,' Ms Humphries said.

'We used a 'rapid assessment methodology' to gauge water levels, water quality and the habitat conditions of 12 different pools.

'Using kayaks, we navigated three cross-sections of each pool measuring dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and salinity at the surface and then at 50 centimetre intervals to the maximum depth of the pool. As part of the process, we also recorded the colour, smell and presence of surface leaf and organic matter, habitat quality assessment and made note of any other animals in or around the pool.

'In between these key refuge sites, we also did a visual check of other large pools to see if there was any urgent need to check these or to commence flows sooner than planned. With the exception of one pool on the Mehi River, within the town, all of the larger pools were in relatively good condition. Some shallower pools had dried up and in a few, we observed some dead fish including native and introduced species,' Ms Humphries said.

Results of the field assessment were discussed at a meeting of OEH, DPI Fisheries, DPI Water and WaterNSW in early April 2016. From there, the decision was made to begin a low flow release that would refill pools before water levels and quality in the refuge pools deteriorated and to allow the river to rise gradually ahead of the replenishment flow some weeks later.

'We kept a close eye on the river and refuge pools as the low flow made its way through, reconnecting the pools and restoring the flow through the system,' Ms Humphries said.

Man standing in dry water channel

Inspecting a dried shallow pool in the Gwydir River, April 2016

'Above and below the front of the flows, we took some water quality measurements but no issues were detected.

'Two weeks after the low flow began, we revisited some of the original refuge pools and found them all in good condition - completely filled with low flows connecting them,' she said.

The low flow reconnected pools along the Gwydir from Tareelaroi to Tyreel then down towards Brageen on the Gwydir and on the Gingham below Tyreel, eventually extending beyond Tillaloo. In the Mehi, the low flow reached from Tareelaroi to Combadello and then eventually to Gundare; and in Carole Creek from the offtake to below Midkin and eventually to near Garah.

WaterNSW released the planned replenishment flow in May with water reaching all of the targeted rivers and creeks and extending to Moomin Creek.

Conditions across the Gwydir valley returned to dry in the months following the low flow and subsequent replenishment flow. As a result, the river below Tareelaroi once more ceased to flow for a period of five days. However, significant rain in early June and catchment inflows from a larger rainfall event to the east provided small freshes and low flows.

As the water has returned to the river, so too have the people.

'That was something we noticed during our monitoring,' Ms Humphries said.

'The social benefit of water flowing in the rivers and creeks meant people could fish, swim, camp and enjoy the river again.

Small turtle being held

An eastern long-neck turtle at a refuge pool on the Gwydir River

'By and large, the community was supportive of the way we chose to manage environmental water during the dry spell. Once the local fishing community understood our plan and the processes involved in delivering the low flow, they were very supportive.

'Others saw the drying down as a natural process and felt our intervention was unnecessary.

'To me, the Gwydir River is a special place because it's where I grew up, it's where I live and now work. It shaped my family for many generations. I remember fishing and swimming in the Gwydir, grazing cattle on Big Leather and mustering on our family and neighbouring properties. Later I worked in irrigation where I was still splashing in Gwydir water.

'I will always remember parts of the Watercourse country before Copeton Dam, but it is a part of history now and I wouldn't wish it undone.

'I do feel privileged to be in a job where I can do my bit to look after the Gwydir, its rivers, creeks watercourse and wetlands. Science is an important part of that. It underpins our basic knowledge and understanding of systems, informs our decision making and helps us to determine what outcomes are possible through management of water for the environment.

'Combined with the knowledge of Aboriginal people and local landholders, we are able to achieve some fantastic outcomes with the water available to us,' she said.

Talking fish in the Gwydir valley - July 2016

Fish and flows in the Gwydir River were the focus of a public forum held at Bingara this month.

Local anglers, hatchery operators, government agencies and volunteers gathered at Bingara's newly established rural learning centre, 'The Living Classroom', to hear the latest on research projects and water management strategies that support local native fish.

The forum was also an opportunity to highlight local concerns including cold water pollution from Copeton Dam, fishing compliance, public access to rivers and water management to benefit multiple stakeholders.

People sitting at desks listening

Public forum held at Bingara Photo: R Hutton

Two men talking

Public forum held at Bingara Photo: R Hutton

Senior Wetlands and River Conservation Officer with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Daryl Albertson said the forum was a great opportunity to meet locals and share information.

'The day generated a lot of discussion, allowing recreational fishers to provide feedback and become better engaged with the relevant government departments,' Mr Albertson said.

'This is the first forum of its type held for many years in the catchment.

'During the development of the first round of Regulated River Water Sharing Plans, prior to 2004, the local recreational fishing sector was fully engaged with river and water planning.

'They were key knowledge holders and strong advocates for native fish communities in the valley.

'It is my hope these connections can be restored and strengthened and this forum can become an annual event, coinciding with the Bingara Orange Festival,' he said.

Speakers from a variety of government agencies presented at the forum.

Tony Townsend, Senior Fisheries Manager from NSW DPI, provided an overview of the latest fish and flow management framework being used to guide planning processes, as well as additional complementary activities, including fixing fish passage, addressing cold water pollution, and improving fish habitat.

Daryl Albertson, OEH, provided an overview of environmental water management in the Gwydir, highlighting the planning processes and people involved, objectives, outcomes and opportunities to be involved in future activities. Mr Albertson also highlighted the recent low flow released in the Gwydir that was managed to improve the condition of the Gwydir River and support the needs of native fish.

David Ryan, Aquatic Ecologist from NSW DPI Water, gave an update on the progress of Water Resource Plans in the Gwydir, highlighting how fish data is being used in combination with other environmental data and water use information to identify priority risks in the system and guide potential management actions and future research.

Dr Gavin Butler, Research Scientist from NSW DPI Fisheries, provided an update on the latest fish monitoring information being conducted as part of Long Term Intervention Monitoring program in the lower Gwydir. Dr Butler gave an overview of the fish community in the lower Gwydir, and highlighted the fish movement study of the program that has just commenced looking at the movements of Murray Cod and Freshwater Catfish.

'The event was a great opportunity for key NSW government agencies to partner and engage with the local Gwydir fishing community, and the efforts from all in attending and contributing were greatly appreciated,' Mr Albertson said.

'Agencies will follow-up on a number of key messages and report back to participants in the coming months,' he said.

To encourage increased engagement with the fishing community, NSW DPI has launched a 'River Flows for Our Fish' survey online.

River Flows for Our Fish survey

Recreational fishers are invited to complete the short survey via a link on the NSW DPI website at Habitat management or directly at:

Go to survey

Group in front of shed

Public forum held at Bingara Photo: R Hutton

Lifeline for native fish in Gwydir Valley - April 2016

Native fish in the Gwydir river system will be thrown a lifeline with environmental water flowing this week, toward refuge pools that are drying out, downstream of Tyreelaroi Weir to the Gwydir and Lower Gwydir Rivers, Gingham Watercourse, Mehi River and Carole Creek.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage will start a low volume water release to ensure a gradual increase in river levels throughout the Gwydir river system. This watering event occurs ahead of a larger water release planned by WaterNSW to occur in May.

OEH Senior Team Leader Debbie Love said these flows would be managed using the best available data and scientific expertise to improve habitat conditions for native fish.

Read the full media release: 15 April 2016

A new perspective on wetlands

Want to visit your local wetlands but don't like getting your feet wet?

Now you can do it from the comfort of your couch!

Staff from the Office of Environment and Heritage have captured a series of 'photospheres' which provide a 360 degree view of wetlands in the north-west.

There are views of Whittaker's Lagoon and the Mehi River near Moree as well as the Gingham Waterhole near Garah.

With a few clicks, it's almost like being there!

You can use the on-screen tools to navigate around the wetland or - for a truly immersive experience - try a virtual reality headset instead.

This collection of photospheres has been put together by Assistant Environmental Water Programs Officer David Preston.

Mr Preston said the images provided a unique perspective of the wetlands.

'This is a useful tool for the general public and water managers alike,' Mr Preston said.

'You can experience the beauty of these unique wetlands without having to set foot outside the home or office.

'The photospheres allow staff to capture the water levels and areas of inundation that result from environmental watering in these wetland sites.

'Remote staff can use the imagery in their work and share it with colleagues hundreds of kilometres away.

'Taken periodically, these images provide useful information throughout the watering season.

'We can really see the difference a watering event can make.

'We want people to enjoy these wetlands but understand it's not possible for everyone to access them, especially during a watering event.

'This technology helps to bridge that gap,' he said.

 

Take a virtual tour of Whittaker’s Lagoon. Photo D Preston OEH.

Take a virtual tour of Whittaker’s Lagoon. Photo D Preston OEH.

 

Waterbird exhibition update - February 2016

A travelling exhibition of waterbird photographs is coming home to roost at the Hunter Wetlands Centre at Shortland, 10 minutes from Newcastle.

The collection of images showcases the wonder and beauty of the Gwydir wetlands following extensive flooding and environmental watering through the summer of 2011-12.

The 20-photo exhibition titled 'Waterbirds Return as the Gwydir Floods' features the work of four photographers - private photographers Joshua Smith from Narrabri and Paul Bayne of Armidale along with Daryl Albertson and Jennifer Spencer from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The collection has toured a number of regional centres since its launch in Moree on World Wetlands Day 2014, but will now find a dedicated long-term home at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, opening to the public on World Wetlands Day, February 2 2016.

More than 12,000 people across 13 regional centres of the North West have had the opportunity to see the touring exhibition which demonstrates the 'boom and bust' nature of the Gwydir wetlands.

You can visit the Hunter Wetlands Centre to view the exhibition and view the images online Waterbirds return as the Gwydir Floods | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

A number of related YouTube videos can also be found at the following webpage: Gwydir valley - Latest news

A student volunteer has become part of the biggest marsh sandpiper count ever recorded in Gwydir wetlands

Curtis Hayne was part of a team surveying waterbirds in the Gwydir Watercourse in mid-November when the record count was logged.

A total of 60 marsh sandpipers were seen along with many other birds.

But it was only after returning home that Curtis realised it was a record-breaking tally.

'I realised by chance that it was a new record after submitting my observations to Eremaea eBird and NSW Birdline,' Curtis said.

It's a new highlight to add to his growing list of bird-watching accomplishments.

The 16-year-old from Moree began birding at the age of nine and is now a regular volunteer with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

'Migratory shorebirds were particularly abundant during the November survey,' Curtis said.

'As well as 60 marsh sandpipers, we saw 30 sharp-tailed sandpipers, two black godwits, six Latham's snipes and a common greenshank.

'It was interesting to see so many marsh sandpipers and only one common greenshank. In previous years, the trend has been the opposite.

'Knowing that these birds have travelled thousands of kilometres from Europe, arctic Siberia and northern China to be here is truly amazing.

'These birds are listed and protected under international agreements between Australia and other countries that the birds visit including Japan, China and the Republic of Korea,' he said.

Other birds seen during the survey included an adult female black-necked stork, brolgas, red-necked avocets, magpie geese, chestnut teal, Australian pratincoles, black-chinned and painted honeyeaters, white-throated needletails and glossy black cockatoos.

Curtis, along with staff from Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and Eco Logical Australia (ELA), observed a total of 137 bird species during the joint waterbird surveys under OEH monitoring and Commonwealth-funded Long Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) programs.

A fortnight later, water levels at the sites had dropped resulting in fewer waterbirds when visited again by new local OEH staff member David Preston, along with Curtis, Lew Macey and Ainslee Lines from NSW Bird Atlassers.

Local OEH Wetland and Rivers Conservation Officer Jane Humphries said the Gwydir, Gingham and Mallowa watercourses were nationally important areas and a unique and highly productive part of the western Gwydir catchment floodplain.

'With the help of volunteers like Curtis, we are able to record the diversity of vegetation and animal life and see the effects of environmental water and natural flows in action,' Ms Humphries said.

In late November, Curtis, Lew, Ainslee and David also spotted a koala during the local bird atlassers survey - an added bonus for the volunteers and OEH staff alike.

A mixed flock of marsh and sharp-tailed sandpipers. Photo C Hayne

A mixed flock of marsh and sharp-tailed sandpipers. Photo C Hayne

Adult female black-necked stork. Photo C Hayne

Adult female black-necked stork. Photo C Hayne

Glossy black cockatoo in flight. Photo C Hayne

Glossy black cockatoo in flight. Photo C Hayne

Curtis Hayne

Curtis Hayne

New videos about the Gwydir wetlands

OEH with MidState productions has developed a new Gwydir Wetlands System video about environmental water in the Gwydir Valley.

A second video, Waterbirds return as the Gwydir floods, gives more detail about what happens to the ecology of the Gwydir wetlands following their inundation.

Come and see the waterbirds . . .

The Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area (SCA) is now open to the public.

 The internationally recognised wetland, near Moree, is throwing open its gates until the end of October.

 The opening coincides with a season of environmental water releases managed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

 Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said it was an opportunity for people to see first-hand the remarkable response of these wetlands to water flows.

 “The Gwydir wetlands are becoming a major regional attraction as the opening periods for sites become more widely known,” Mr Albertson said.

 “Visitors can expect to see a range of colonially-nesting species including straw-necked Ibis, intermediate egrets, glossy ibis and nankeen night-herons.

 “A bird-hide is located at the ‘Waterbird Lagoon’, where daytime visitors can observe the wetland’s birdlife.

 “I would encourage anyone interested in the wetlands and birdlife to take the opportunity to visit this fantastic wetland,” he said.

 Daytime access is available during dry weather. No overnight camping is permitted, however there are facilities close by at a local property called ‘Boyanga South’.

 Visitors are requested to check in with either the local Moree Visitor Information Centre on (02) 6757 3350; Narrabri Area NPWS Office on (02) 6792 7300) or ‘Boyanga South’ on (02) 6753 3252 for current conditions.

New life for waterbird exhibition

An exhibition of photographs depicting a major waterbird breeding event in the Gwydir wetlands has had its final showing.

The collection entitled ‘Waterbirds Return as the Gwydir Floods’ has toured galleries across the north-west and been seen by more than 12,000 people.

But the final showing of the large format photographs is not the end for this unique collection.

The images have been transformed into a digital product which will soon be available on-line.

Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said the final showing in Armidale was a fitting conclusion to the touring element of the exhibition.

“The exhibition began as a book of photographs for landholders and grew into a celebration of these magnificent wetlands shared by the whole community,” Mr Albertson said.

The exhibition features the work of four photographers – Joshua Smith from Narrabri, Paul Bayne from Armidale and Jennifer Spencer and Daryl Albertson, both representing the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

For now, images can be viewed on the Flickr site.

Art show includes the Gwydir Wetlands

From Siberia to Roebuck Bay. By John Wolseley

From Siberia to Roebuck Bay. By John Wolseley. Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family.

The beauty and fragility of the Gwydir Wetlands was featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria this year.

Works by acclaimed artist and naturalist, John Wolseley, included a piece entitled 'Dystopia - the last wetland, Gwydir 2184'.

Mr Wolseley travelled across Australia capturing the diversity of water ecosystems from mangroves and sphagnum swamps to floodplains and river systems.

This latest exhibition was a collection of works commissioned by Sir Roderick Carnegie.

Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said the artist first visited the Gwydir Wetlands in 2008 and 2009, during a very dry period, with little more than a red-bellied black snake and a flock of ibis for company.

'From those visits John prepared and held a successful exhibition at Sydney's Roslyn Oxley Gallery in 2010,' Mr Albertson said.

Mr Albertson then corresponded with the artist via email, providing satellite images and aerial photographs to assist with his work.

Mr Albertson said the Gwydir wetlands had provided rich inspiration for the artist.

'In 'Dystopia - the last wetland', John used a method of imprinting from dead birds beneath an image of the Gwydir Wetlands surrounded by farmland.

'The artwork put forward a proposition - if we choose to do nothing this important wetland system could be a distant memory in future years,' Mr Albertson said.

The Gwydir Wetlands are located 60 kilometres west of Moree and are recognised under the Ramsar Convention which aims to promote conservation of the world's wetlands.

Mr Albertson said John's work appealed to people because it connected them with the spirit of nature.

'In this way, John spreads the messages of protection and conservation to a much wider and more diverse audience through his art,' he said.

'I am hoping John will continue his focus on wetlands,' Mr Albertson said.

'The subject is broad, unique, topical and worthy of increased awareness.

'This exhibition celebrated the beauty of the Australian wilderness and encourages an understanding of the significance and fragility of these remote and little-known sites,' he said.

More information, images and video of artist John Wolseley can be found here:

Clontarf dancers inspired by ibis

Clontarf dancers ready to perform.

The Clontarf dancers of Armidale, ready to perform.

The cycle of life in the Gwydir Wetlands has inspired a new dance from members of the Clontarf Academy at Armidale High School.

The 'Ibis Dance' has been choreographed and recorded as part of a partnership project between the Armidale Clontarf Academy and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

Catering for Aboriginal boys in years 7 to 12, the Clontarf Academy is part of Armidale High School and aims to improve educational outcomes for students and equip them to contribute more meaningfully to the community.

OEH Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said the partnership project was an opportunity to share insights and learn from one another.

To the local Kamilaroi Aboriginal people, the Gwydir River, its floodplain and wetlands (west of Moree) are a significant part of their heritage and a place of important cultural sites.

'The "Ibis Dance" is a response to this significant cultural site,' Mr Albertson said.

'It was choreographed by two members of the Armidale Clontarf Dance Troupe and is performed by nine dancers in three parts.

'Firstly, flocks of adult ibis fly high above the clouds, circling on wind currents across the land.

'When flooding rains occur the flocks of birds then come together and fly to their nesting sites in the wetlands, where they raise their young.

'Finally, after feeding and growing strong in the wetlands the young ibis leave the wetlands with their parents and scatter once more across the land.

'As well as choreography and performance, the Clontarf students have had the opportunity to video the dance and produce a video clip.

'It's been a great process that has taught the boys many skills which they will be able to use in other areas of their schooling,' he said.

Fire in the Lower Gwydir Wetlands

It took less than a month for a landscape devastated by fire to show signs of recovery.

What made the difference?

Water.

In March of 2014, a lightning strike is thought to have ignited a blaze which swept through the Lower Gwydir wetlands in north western NSW. The fire ravaged 1,600 hectares of wetland vegetation including stands of endangered Marsh Club Rush.

After three years of significant rainfall and river inflows, a hot, dry summer had left the wetland with a significant combustible fuel load.

One lightning strike was all it took to turn the landscape to ash.

It was a blow for staff from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) who had managed the recovery of the wetland from an impoverished condition after the drought, back to a healthy and resilient ecosystem.

But nature was on their side.

In the week following the blaze, the first substantial rainfall event of the season took place across the wetlands and Gwydir floodplain.

Senior Wetlands Conservation Officer Daryl Albertson said the rain extinguished the last of the smouldering fires and, coupled with small inflows, wet and refilled the soil profile, down to the root zone.

'A team comprising staff from OEH and the National Parks and Wildlife Service was assembled to determine the best course of action,' Mr Albertson said.

'In the second week of April – less than a month after the fire – the team visited the site and were amazed by the recovery that had already occurred.

'Wetlands plant specialist Peter Berney from NPWS reported that the sedge communities had bounced back rapidly, to the extent that some of the spike rush were flowering.

'The Marsh clubrush (Bolboschoenus) were doing well with stands inundated to between five and 15 centimetres.'

In the nearby Coolabah woodlands, the groundcover had completely re-established with conditions favourable for further germination.

The initial loss of vegetation had paved the way for water to move through the landscape over the course of days rather than weeks as had previously been the case.

Mr Albertson said overland flows had travelled through the nature reserve and into the adjoining property of Wondoona, filling the Wondoona waterhole.

'In doing so, the event demonstrated the absence of any man-made obstruction to water movement on the reserve or in the watercourses of the Lower Gwydir,' he said.

'Therefore, natural wetland vegetation is the major influence on flow passage through the nature reserve wetlands.'

In the months since the fire, the Lower Gwydir wetlands continue to show remarkable improvements on their road to recovery.

Native sedges continue to respond positively, given the late season rainfall, while other wetland plants and birdlife have also returned to the area.

OEH's role in managing the ongoing recovery at the site will include the planned delivery of water to ensure good inundation across the burnt areas and to continually monitor the site recovery, driven by strategic watering over time.

During the coming watering year, the OEH is aiming to achieve at least five to six months of continuous wetland inundation across a large portion of the remaining Gingham and Lower Gwydir wetland areas.

Deliveries have commenced from reserves shared between the Environmental Contingency Allowance and Commonwealth.

'Research in other locations has shown that supporting burnt wetland systems with post watering programs has long term benefits for wetland communities,' Mr Albertson said.

'We continue to monitor the wetland response closely and hope to see similar, positive results in the Lower Gwydir wetlands.'

Marsh Club Rush one week after fire. Photo: P Berney

Marsh Club Rush one week after fire. Photo: P Berney

Marsh Club Rush three weeks after fire. Photo:, P Berney

Marsh Club Rush three weeks after fire. Photo:, P Berney

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Page last updated: 07 September 2017