Just add water? The effectiveness of environmental flows during wetland vegetation restoration
Since river regulation, many wetlands in the NSW portion of the Murray-Darling Basin have been degraded or lost due to alteration of flows. To address this problem, the NSW and Australian Governments have committed funding to infrastructure improvements and water buyback, providing annual environmental flows for many of the large rivers. In addition, the NSW Government has recently purchased agricultural land to form part of protected area estates (e.g. Lowbidgee wetlands, Toorale, Macquarie Marshes). My study site is the Macquarie Marshes in northern NSW, focusing on the recently purchased Pillicawarrina property, which once supported one of the largest waterbird nesting colonies in the Marshes, before conversion to farmland in the 1980s. In 2009, the NSW Government purchased part (2400 hectares) of this property adjoining the Northern Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve, with the goal of returning to pre-existing wetland vegetation communities. This work will explore the use of environmental and managed flows to restore vegetation in a wetland of state, national and international significance; identifying the mechanisms behind re-colonisation and restoration of wetland plants, in relation to flooding and cropping history.