Several hundred hectares of black box woodland and lignum shrubs are recovering from drought

At Bottle Bend Reserve on the Murray River near Buronga, 2000 megalitres of water has been pumped into the drought-affected woodland to bring it back from the brink.

Bottle Bend Reserve

Water has also been delivered to support lignum shrubs across a wider area of the site.

The Department of Planning Industry and Environment has managed the delivery of water and is monitoring the habitat response.

Department water manager Sascha Healy said that ‘we are seeing the black box trees begin to turn green, the lignum is recovering, and the waterbirds are starting to arrive’.

Lignum shrubs are vitally important habitat for floodplain wildlife and are an important target species for watering.

‘Lignum has an extraordinary ability to transform very quickly when water arrives,’ Ms Healy said.

‘It goes from looking like a pile of sticks to developing new growth, leaves and flowers quite rapidly.

‘The water is now benefiting a range of wildlife including waterfowl such as ibis, ducks and countless woodland birds,’ she said.

The insects are buzzing, and the frogs are already calling out and spawning.

Chair of the Bottle Bend Land Managers group and Wentworth Shire Councillor, Jane MacAllister, said the watering event had brought the Bottle Bend site back to life.

‘There are frogs and froglets, swarms of insects, masses of birds and reinvigorated trees, including the largest area of Black box woodland in this region,’ Cr MacAllister said.

‘This watery oasis is visible from the Sturt Highway, there has been interest from local community and tourists, and the rejuvenation of the reserve has created a renewed sense of ownership of this vital local place.

‘The Barkandji Native Title board of management have expressed their gratitude and support for the project, and we are looking forward to having a combined committee meeting there in the near future, to discuss the outcomes of the watering and other culturally appropriate land management goals.

‘To see this beautiful place come alive makes me proud to represent such a hard-working group of involved and engaged experts and community members,’ she said.

Bottle Bend Reserve (the former Gol Gol State Forest) is a 1600-hectare nature reserve on the Murray River, south of the Sturt Highway, near Monak.

Since 2013, water for the environment has supported a significant improvement in the health of the floodplain ecosystem at Bottle Bend Reserve. Helping to maintain a freshwater ‘lens’ in the billabong above salty groundwater reduces surface salinity and creates a safer zone for trees and other plants. By keeping our floodplains healthy, we are supporting healthy river systems, regularly bringing important nutrients back into the river to feed native fish.