Why are we drawn to rivers, wetlands and floodplains?
What role do plants play in making these places special?
Tell us what you value (particularly about plants!)

By Cherie Campbell

There’s something special about rivers, wetland and floodplains – and for those of us who enjoy spending time in these places there is a strong connection that develops. The way in which we value rivers, wetlands and floodplains will greatly influence the aspects of these places we wish to retain or protect. So, I want to know what is it that makes people drawn to rivers, wetlands and floodplains and how are their values perceived by different people?

For some, it’s the ecological value of rivers, wetlands and floodplains that is important – their contribution to biodiversity, provision of habitat for a range of plants and animals, and the functional role they play in supporting food webs, water quality and the transport of sediment and nutrients. While for others it’s the visual appeal of rivers, wetlands and floodplains, or the ability to see or hear things of interest such as plants, birds, frogs and insects.

We can also value rivers, wetlands and floodplains for the myriad of recreational or commercial activities that can be undertaken in those places – for example camping, fishing, boating, canoeing, photography, painting, hunting, yabby collection, beekeeping, firewood collection, and many, many more.  The spiritual or cultural connection we feel with these places is hard to describe with words but another powerful reason we want to look after these areas.

My PhD project is aiming to characterise ‘good condition’ for non-woody wetland and floodplain vegetation (NWV) across the Murray-Darling Basin – basically all the plants you see in rivers, wetlands and floodplains except for trees and large shrubs. I want to characterise good condition to develop benchmarks to aid the evaluation of outcomes.

Part of the process to characterise good condition is to understand what people value about non-woody vegetation. The concept of ‘good condition’ is inherently linked to human values, and will vary from person to person. In order to find out from a broad spectrum of the community about why they value vegetation I have developed an online survey. Outcomes from the survey will improve our understanding of the values associated with wetland and floodplain vegetation. Having a greater understanding of how society values the role of vegetation in rivers, wetlands and floodplains will help to target management outcomes that are supported by multiple sectors of the community. As this study is part of a large, collaborative project (Flow-MER Program) the outcomes will be reported to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) and will influence environmental water management decisions.

Do you have a love of rivers, wetlands and floodplains? Tell us what it is that you value about these places – particularly in terms of plants – which may simply be that they provide habitat for your favourite fish!

Take the survey

Input into the survey is greatly appreciated – we can’t build a greater understanding of how rivers, wetlands and floodplains are valued without the input of a broad range of people. Keep an eye out for a summary of the survey outcomes on the Flow-MER website

Cherie Campbell

Cherie Campbell is a vegetation ecologist interested in the maintenance and recovery of wetland and floodplain vegetation in river-floodplain ecosystems. Cherie leads a research project that will develop a framework of condition benchmarks and a process for evaluating outcomes for non-woody wetland and floodplain vegetation at a Basin-scale.

If you would like any further details please contact Cherie Campbell, Centre for Applied Water Science, University of Canberra, cherie.campbell@canberra.edu.au.

Our work in the Vegetation Basin Theme

For additional information about the Flow-MER project or Cherie’s PhD please visit the Flow-MER website or contact Cherie Campbell, Centre for Applied Water Science, University of Canberra, cherie.campbell@canberra.edu.au.

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