The Living Murray program - Murray Valley National Park

Barmah-Millewa Forest - the largest red gum forest in the world.

Moira Lake, part of Millewa forest, Murray Valley Regional ParkLocated in Murray Valley National Park (New South Wales) and Barmah National Park (Victoria), the Barmah-Millewa Forest is one of 6 national icon sites on the Murray River. It contains the largest river redgum forest in the world. Being home to over 60 threatened native animal species and 40 threatened plant species, it is Ramsar-listed for its significant international contribution to wetlands biodiversity.

Each year the Murray Darling Basin Authority's The Living Murray program funds NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (Victoria) to monitor these wetlands for their response to watering provided by river operators.

 

Egret takes flight in Millewa ForestThe availability and timely application of environmental water is essential for the health of the Barmah and Millewa forests and their wetlands.

Each spring, the regulators that separate the forest from the Murray River are opened to allow water into the forest. In wet years, this may come as flood water. In dry years it comes as environmental water from upstream dams. Both flood water and environmental water benefit the Millewa forests' wetlands, plants and animals by mirroring natural flows which traditionally peaked at this time of year due to snow melt.

Opening regulators to flood the forest in wet years can help ease flooding pressures on surrounding areas. Then closing the regulators at other times, for example in summer when irrigation demands are high, allows for a natural drying cycle in the forest.

The Barmah-Millewa Forest and its natural and cultural heritage are under threat as water no longer reaches many parts of the forest, more water demands are placed on the system, and eroded sand arriving from upstream is blocking the river and reducing flows.

Climate change is also reducing upstream snowfall and rainfall more generally. This makes the availability of environmental water even more important to the health of the forested wetlands.

White Australian ibis (Threskiornis moluccus) nest at Reed Beds swamp, Millewa forestEach year National Parks and Wildlife Service facilitates an ecological health check of the icon site by employing contractors to monitor fish, waterbirds, bush birds, frogs, turtles, and wetland, understory and canopy vegetation. The reports from this work are reviewed by NPWS and Living Murray (TLM) staff and are published on the Murray Darling Basin Authority's website.

The Living Murray also funds communications pieces to highlight what the program does and garner support. In 2021-22 we are delivering 4 videos about the monitoring and the importance of flood and environmental water to the forest. The topics include frogs and tadpoles, colonial waterbirds, turtles and traditional owners, and fish conservation.

 

Native fish rescue – Barmah-Millewa Forest

The Living Murray tadpole hunt

In search of Moira

Waterbirds, waders and widgets in the Barmah-Millewa Forest

Turtles and Traditional Owners in the Barmah-Millewa Forest

The river redgum forests of Murray Valley National Park are the traditional Country for Aboriginal people. The landscape and all that it contains; rivers, forests, birds and animals, are part of cultural beliefs and feature in Dreaming stories. The park provided a wealth of resources, including plants that were used as medicines and in tool making.

The river and its flood plain were a rich food source and many middens and other the cultural sites are known, and more are being discovered. Under The Living Murray's indigenous partnership program, National Parks and Wildlife Service engages with traditional owners on the ecological monitoring and other programs and aims to share knowledge and promote traditional owner aspirations.

Scarred tree on Gulpa Creek, Murray Valley National Park, Southern NSW.
Bittern Bird expedition, Deniliquin High School. From left to right: Coby Smith, Kobi Baxter and Isaac Wilson.