We are monitoring the restoration and reconnection of Paika Lake and its wetlands in the Murrumbidgee catchment.

The challenge

Restoring Paika Lake and its wetlands

Paika Lake is a low-lying floodplain wetland located in the Murrumbidgee catchment about 20 km north of Balranald in New South Wales.

Until 2011, Paika and other local wetlands had been isolated for over 100 years from flooding and disconnected from the rest of the iconic Lowbidgee floodplain system by a series of levee banks and roads.

Restoration of water to Paika Lake and surrounding wetlands began in 2011, at the instigation and through the co-operation of local property owners and NSW OEH. Their enthusiasm for the restoration of their wetlands has since extended to their neighbours.

In 2012 CSIRO, the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW OEH) and property owners were successful in a joint application for three years of project funding from the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, through the Clean Energy Futures ‘Biodiversity Fund’ to support restoration and monitoring of Paika Lake and surrounds.

In late 2012 environmental water was supplied from the Murrumbidgee River for the second time to Paika Lake and Cherax Swamp, and for the first time in 100 years to Hobblers Lake and Penarie Creek along with removal of levees and installation of regulators as well as carp screens, to facilitate rehabilitation of these historic wetlands.

Cameras captured the environmental water returning to Cherax Swamp in the Paika Lake floodplain in September 2012 and the subsequent return of waterbirds

Our response

Monitoring to assist future management

The project aims to facilitate restoration, connection, management and protection of Paika Lake and surrounding area, through:

  • restoration of flooding, via infrastructure works, to maximise vegetation and biodiversity recovery
  • selective grazing management and fencing to maximise vegetation and biodiversity recover
  • monitoring of the responses of understorey biomass, groundcover and biodiversity.

CSIRO’s role in the project is primarily monitoring of floodplain vegetation responses to managed environmental flows.

This is being accomplished through both detailed on-ground surveys and the use of automatic monitoring cameras taking time-lapse images.

In addition, CSIRO is investigating native and feral fauna use of the area’s lakes and wetlands through analysis of bird and animal presence in both time-lapse images and in motion-triggered images.

The information derived from monitoring data will inform adaptive management into the future, and with other CSIRO research will provide improved understanding of the role of managed flooding in carbon sequestration and biodiversity sustainability in Australian floodplain wetland ecosystems.

The results

Waterbirds return to Paika Lake

Opening up the historical flow paths has resulted in an amazing wildlife response, at its peak including the arrival of 20 000 to 40 000 waterbirds of over 35 different species, and three threatened species – the blue billed duck, freckled duck, and Australian painted snipe.

Pelicans, coots, egrets, ibis and grebes were spotted in their hundreds and successful breeding was observed for darters, swans, ducks and native hens.

The water delivery path from North Redbank Channel to Paika Lake also benefited a significant area of river red gum forest and several kilometres of creek running through the property, ‘Narwie’.

Vegetation condition adjacent to the wetlands has already improved, and seedling regeneration is abundant.

Local landholders are experimenting with revegetation plantings using a range of wetland species, and colonisation of the wetlands from upstream seedbanks is also expected.

Carp were successfully kept out of two of the wetlands by a new experimental carp screen. Further water deliveries are planned for Autumn and Spring 2013.

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