River red gum decline and woodland birds

The effect of river red gum decline on woodland birds in the Macquarie Marshes

Honours project by Alice Blackwood

Regulation of rivers worldwide has reduced the ecological resilience and biodiversity of riparian and floodplain ecosystems and their dependent biota. Most knowledge of this is of the effects on aquatic biota, but some terrestrial organisms, such as woodland birds, may also be dependent on flows. I investigated differences in the woodland bird community among stands of river red gums in the Macquarie Marshes in three health categories: poor (see below, left) , intermediate (centre) and good (right).


I created a map of river red gum health, categorising stand health as good, intermediate or poor from aerial photos, for selection of 10 sites for woodland bird surveys in each health category. I surveyed woodland birds at each site in autumn and spring over a two‐hectare area for 20 minutes, recording species, abundance and microhabitat preferences. At each site, I surveyed vegetation: species, structure, abundance and health of understorey and trees. I also surveyed birds at three terrestrial sites, further out on the floodplain.

The Macquarie Marshes are losing their unique ecological value and this is not only reflected in declining aquatic biota but also a changing woodland bird community. The woodland bird community is increasingly reflecting one of terrestrial habitats, rather than an aquatic ecosystem. Reversing this decline will require increases in environmental flows, currently supported by major government programs.

See Alice's honours thesis attached below.

Research Program: 
River Red Gum Dynamics and Management
Research Themes: 
Rivers and Wetlands
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