Report One Vital Key To Saving Wetlands Systems

February 11, 2000 The Rural News

A new report might provide the key to arresting the decline of one of Australia's most significant wetland systems.

The report analyses the first project to map the wetlands of the Murray/Darling Basin, an area which covers more than half of New South Wales.

National Parks and Wildlife Service principal research chemist. Dr Richard Kingsford said this information was vital to protecting what remains of Australia's wetlands.

It is essential to know what you arc managing so you can manage it properly," said Dr Kingsford. "The toll from reduced river flows and our impact on the land has seen the losses of more than 50 per cent of many of our wetlands.

"The wetlands are home to a huge variety of species, including fish, frogs, reptiles, waterbirds and thousands of insects and plants - many of which we know little about.

"The lakes, swamps. dams and flood plains of the Murray-Darling Basin are known to support tens of thousands of waterbirds.

"Protecting this range of species is vital to maintaining the biodiversity of these areas," be said.

Dr Kingsford said by having an accurate picture of the size and location of wetlands, it was easier to make decisions on how to protect the remaining areas.

The Murray-Darling Basin has about 6.3 million hectares of wetlands and a large proportion is in the north-west of the basin. "This overall picture (the report) will assure planners and policy makers are aware of the presence of wetlands and will assist them to better assess their value and make informed decisions on how to protect them.

"For example, the report separates wetlands into river catchment areas, which enables catchment managers to be aware of the impact of changes of water flows which support important wetlands.

"The information is available to anyone in the community interested in the location of wetlands through the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

"World Wetlands Week is an opportunity for people to be aware of the plight of these wonderful natural features and to consider what they can do to protect our wetlands for the future generations," Dr Kingsford said.