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How our Flow-MER researchers get ‘undone’
by the beauty of the places we care about

Written by: Fiona Dyer & Siwan Lovett

One of the things that motivates our researchers is their love of the special places where we are undertaking our work.

We thought you might like an insight into the recent Lachlan Selected Area autumn vegetation monitoring trip, through the wonderful photos of team leader Dr Fiona Dyer. I am a friend of Fiona’s on Facebook, so saw these stunning photos and asked if we could share them more widely.  We hope you enjoy them 🙂

“Yup – it doesn’t often get to me, but that morning in the mist in the swamp brought me undone…..truly blessed to be there. There is a deep, deep spirituality about that place and an honour to help look after it.”

– Fiona

As Fiona explains:

Autumn vegetation monitoring is a part of our regular monitoring activities where we visit 13 different floodplain or wetland sites within the Lower Lachlan catchment to survey groundcover vegetation. We are investigating how the groundcover vegetation diversity responds to environmental water. We find that environmental water in this area plays an important role in supporting aquatic and amphibious plants (these are plants that require inundation or saturation to complete some part of their life cycle).

This was a little later in the year than we like to go because of Covid-19 restrictions, so really we were there in early winter! (it was pretty chilly). The following photos are from the sites we monitor so that we can understand how to best use our environmental water for ecosystems and the people that enjoy these fabulous places.

Lake Bullogal – View from the edge of the Nonamah blackbox woodlands at Lake Bullogal with environmental water in it – a new site for our vegetation monitoring.
All photos Fiona Dyer. 

Lake Bullogal is part of the Lachlan Swamp, which is listed in the Directory of important wetlands in Australia (DEWHA, 2009). The Lachlan Swamp complex is considered to be important for waterbirds when flooded, witha number of listed threatened species (for example Blue-billed duck, Eastern great egret, Freckled duck, Magpie goose and White-bellied sea-eagle) all found in this area.

We’ve selected this as a monitoring site for groundcover diversity because the site is a target for environmental water (mostly NSW water) and fits within our evaluation framework for the Flow-MER program.

We monitor groundcover vegetation on the margins of the open water amidst the Blackbox trees.

Open channel sections of the Great Cumbung Swamp. Photo credit: Fiona Dyer

The Great Cumbung Swamp near Oxley in NSW, is the terminal drainage wetland for the Lachlan River and the surrounding floodplain. The swamp covers an area of around 16,000 ha, of which approximately 400 ha are reed beds.  It is listed in the Directory of important wetlands in Australia (DEWHA, 2009) as well as the Register of the National Estate.

The Great Cumbung Swamp comprises a diversity of vegetation communities including areas of Common reed (Phragmites australis) and Cumbungi (Typha domingensis), Lignum swamps, Blackbox woodlands and extensive River red gum communities. These areas provide important refuge in an otherwise dry landscape.

There is a network of channels that flow through the swamp, and these photos show part of the main channel network with environmental water. The swamp is recognised as a significant terminal drainage basin, an uncommon feature in NSW, by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (read more).

It is considered to be a major drought refuge for birds and has historically been an important breeding area for waterbirds. This area is the focus of our research program within Flow-MER, as well as part of our groundcover vegetation monitoring program. See our research page for more information (lilnk below).

Myriophyllum, Water milfoil – This feathery aquatic plant is found happily growing in shallow water throughout the redgum woodlands of the Great Cumbung Swamp. Fruits and leaves of this plant are thought to be important food sources for waterbirds. In this image it is surrounded by water primrose (Ludwigia peploides) another aquatic plant found commonly at our sites.
Ranunculus undosus, Swamp buttercup – This bright yellow flowering herb is found in places which are regularly wet, and so we find it amidst the environmental water lying beneath the red gums of the Great Cumbung Swamp

Damien McRae from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and part of our Flow-MER team was fortunate to ‘tag along’.

“It means very early starts on cold mornings and long days in the field. Both of which can be rewarded with stunning landscapes draped in the golden sunlight of early morning and late afternoon.”

– Damien

Red-gums of the Great Cumbung Swamp

Extensive stands of River red gum woodlands occur on the floodplains and margins of The Great Cumbung Swamp. These are some of the largest stands of River red gum woodlands in NSW, covering around 50,000 ha.

The Great Cumbung Swamp would naturally have been an almost permanent waterbody in an otherwise dry landscape, but the use of water upstream has markedly changed the area that is regularly wet. The swamp is a target for environmental water with a particular focus on supporting the central reed beds. We have monitoring sites among the reeds and it is the focus of our research activities under Flow-MER.

The site we are working on is owned by the Nature Conservancy – read more here.

Our work in the Lachlan Selected Area

The Lachlan River flows through the lands of the Nari Nari, Ngiyampaa, Waradjuri and Yita Yita Nations, forming part of Songlines and Dreaming tracks. It has provided food, shelter and resources to Aboriginal people for between 40,000 and 65,000 years. The Lachlan supports a diverse range of landscapes and species that vary enormously through extremes of weather conditions. Our work here is focusing on monitoring the outcomes of environmental water in the lower Lachlan river system, from Lake Brewster to the Great Cumbung Swamp.

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