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WA wheatbelt rich in wetlands

Friday, 19th June 2009


















A project aimed at identifying wetlands in the WA wheatbelt has revealed more than 20,000 scattered throughout the Avon River basin. Scientists have spent the past three years mapping salt lakes, granite outcrops, fresh water lakes and claypans in the region. The research has been funded by the Avon Catchment Council to help identify, classify and evaluate the wetlands, often rich in plant and animal life The ACC’s Rebecca Palumbo said the work was important because so much biodiversity in the region was unaccounted for. “This is the first time salt and fresh water lakes, granite outcrops and claypans have been mapped and audited for their conservation value in the wheatbelt,” Rebecca Palumbo said. “Salt lakes are often not considered by the community as having a value when it comes to flora and fauna, but this isn’t the case,” Rebecca Palumbo said. “Salt lakes in good condition can support more than 20 species of aquatic invertebrate fauna including brine shrimp and insect larvae, which in turn support waterbirds such as the Banded Stilt. “Vegetation that is in good condition and fringing the wetlands also provide refuge for populations of threatened flora and fauna, often found nowhere else.” Satellite imagery was used to pin point the wetlands and an evaluation system developed based on criteria such as the amount of vegetation in and around the wetland, known occurrences of threatened flora and fauna and the risk of salinity. About 11,500 wetland basins and 5800 granite outcrops, all greater than one hectare in size, have now been mapped, classified and evaluated in the region. The Department of Environment and Conservation was contracted by the ACC to develop the classification and evaluation system. Scientists from DEC also mapped and surveyed a cross section of the wetlands for ground truthing. The ACC’s Rebecca Palumbo said the project had also produced an environmental assessment tool. “We now have a digital data base that shows the location and assigns a conservation value to these wetlands,” Rebecca Palumbo said. “This tool can also be used when any potential development is being considered in the wheatbelt that could impact on a wetland. “It also means wetlands of high conservation significance can be be protected and improved.” The project has been funded through the Avon Catchment Council with the support of the Australian and State Governments and is due for completion in September 2009. Information from the project can now be viewed online at; Media Contact: Rebecca Palumbo, Avon Catchment Council, Program Manager Biodiversity, 9690 2250 or 0428 834 926. Photo caption 1: A project officer surveying aquatic life in a natural salt lake near Kondut. Photo Caption 2: A granite outcrop at Sanford Rock in the Shire of Westonia. Photo: Michael Marriott