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Endangered Freshwater Wetlands on Coastal Floodplains under the BC Act

20210212_135434
by Lindsay Holmes
BOTANIST

Freshwater Wetlands on Coastal Floodplains is an endangered ecological community (EEC) under the Biodiversity Conservation Act, 2016 which was first gazetted in 2004.

This EEC can occur anywhere in the coastal zone from the QLD border to the VIC border, associated with floodplains, alluvial flats, lagoons, lakes, landscape depressions and in backbarrier systems where floodplains adjoin coastal sandplains.

The EEC occurs where there is permanent inundation or semi-permanent water typically of freshwater influence, but may be partly brackish or saline.

The diversity of the vegetation in these wetlands is influenced by depth and nutrients and stability of the water levels being permanently wet or ephemeral. They may include meadows of grasses, sedges and rushes, aquatic herbs and water lilies. Maundia triglochinoides is an example of a threatened plant species which thrives in this type of vegetation.

(Image Left – Cattai Wetlands is a Freshwater Wetlands at Coopernook, approximately 20km from Taree in NSW)

   Maundia triglochinoides – Description

A perennial with rhizomes about 5mm thick and emergent tufts of leaves arising
along their length. Leaves are spongy, inflated and triangular in cross
section, to 80 cm long, sometimes longer, 5 – 10mm wide. Grows in swamps, lagoons, dams, channels, creeks or shallow freshwater 30 – 60 cm deep on heavy clay, low nutrients.
Diaspore is the seed and root tubers, which are probably dispersed by water.
Spreads vegetatively, with tufts of leaves arising along rhizome. Populations
expand following flood events and contract to more permanent wetlands in times
of low rainfall. Flowers November-January. Distribution Limits N-Qld border S-Wyong.

Freshwater wetlands support a wide range of threatened fauna species, in particularly the birds and frogs. Some examples of threatened fauna species that rely heavily on this EEC for breeding habitat or major foraging may include the Green and Golden Bell Frog, Comb-crested Jacana and Black-necked Stork. 

The wetlands also provide a significant resource for migratory species, eg. Various sandpiper species and godwits, Eastern Curlew, Australasian Bittern and Latham’s Snipe. These wetlands are also important breeding grounds for insects that are prey for many of the above-mentioned species, however there is the threatened Giant Dragonfly that also inhabits Freshwater Wetlands.

It will also occur in other wetland-type communities as well as dams on the coastal side of the Great Dividing Range.

Image : Eastern Curlew

Image : Giant Dragonfly

Image : Australasian Bittern

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