Heart Mo­rass gets en­vi­ron­men­tal flow

The Vic­to­rian En­vi­ron­men­tal Water Holder has au­tho­rised the use of en­vi­ron­men­tal water at the WET Trust and Field & Game Aus­tralia's Heart Mo­rass in the lower La­trobe wet­lands to pro­vide feed­ing habi­tat for wet­land fauna, par­tic­u­larly wa­ter­birds.

Field and Game - - Heart Morass -

This is the first time en­vi­ron­men­tal water has been au­tho­rised for use at the wet­land.

En­vi­ron­men­tal water will be di­verted from the La­trobe River to Heart Mo­rass de­pend­ing on water lev­els and water qual­ity and will be care­fully man­aged by the West Gipp­s­land Catch­ment Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (WGCMA).

Wa­ter­ing is ex­pected to oc­cur from March to April 2016.

En­vi­ron­men­tal water is also likely to be re­leased to the Sale Com­mon and Dowd Mo­rass.

WGCMA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Martin Fuller said dams, water ex­trac­tion and re­duced rain­fall from cli­mate change had re­sulted in a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of small-medium floods in the La­trobe River. “This has sub­se­quently re­duced the num­ber of floods en­ter­ing the lower La­trobe Wet­lands,” he said. “Heart Mo­rass is the only one of the lower La­trobe River wet­lands that con­sists mainly of pri­vate land hold­ings; there are eight land­hold­ers in­clud­ing FGA. “This meant that in order to put water into the wet­land all af­fected land­hold­ers had to agree in writ­ing to the wa­ter­ing. This was achieved in March 2016.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter­ing in Heart Mo­rass has a range of ac­tions and ob­jec­tives.

Na­ture takes care of the ma­jor flood­ing events re­quired to flush the wet­land so man­aged en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter­ing fo­cuses on the fol­low­ing: pre­vent­ing the ac­ti­va­tion of acidic soils by keep­ing those soils un­der water re­duc­ing salin­ity lev­els by let­ting in fresh water en­cour­ag­ing dif­fer­ent wet­land plant growth and re­pro­duc­tion through wa­ter­ing and dry­ing out the wet­land in cy­cles pro­vid­ing feed­ing and shel­ter­ing habi­tat for birds and frogs. Mr Fuller said one of the pri­or­ity wa­ter­ing aims for Heart Mo­rass was to pro­mote the re­cov­ery of the wet­land. • • • • “In terms of the next 12 months, wa­ter­ing will fo­cus on in­un­dat­ing the main body of the wet­land,” he said. “This area has un­der­gone fan­tas­tic nat­u­ral re­gen­er­a­tion process as the wet­land dried out over sum­mer (which was the high­est pri­or­ity in the 2015–16 wa­ter­ing plan). “In­un­dat­ing th­ese wet­land plants will en­cour­age plant growth and seed dis­per­sal, and pro­vide food for water birds. “Nat­u­ral floods in win­ter and spring will hope­fully top up the wet­land, but

if they don't, en­vi­ron­men­tal water will likely be used to water it. Dur­ing this time the wet­land water lev­els will fluc­tu­ate pro­vid­ing niches for plants and birds to thrive.”

Gary ‘Pud' Howard, a long-time mem­ber of Sale Field & Game who is on the com­mit­tee of man­age­ment of the Heart Mo­rass, said ac­cess to en­vi­ron­men­tal water would al­low for wet­ting and dry­ing phases. “We de­cided as part of the man­age­ment plan af­ter a lot of re­search that we would try to dry the wet­land ev­ery five years and it has been in a dry­ing phase this year,” he said.

The abil­ity to reg­u­late small flushes will also help to com­bat salin­ity.

In a decade, Heart Mo­rass has gone from de­graded and des­o­late farm­land to a stun­ning wet­land — a trans­for­ma­tion that wouldn't have oc­curred with­out the com­mit­ment of FGA and its mem­ber vol­un­teers. “We can hang our hat on what we've achieved in 10 years and we are just adding to that,” Mr Howard said.

“It is very spe­cial this place, to me it is, any­way. “It proves that hunters are con­ser­va­tion­ists, it proves what com­mu­nity groups and vol­un­teers can do if they work to­gether.”

Mr Fuller said the re­ha­bil­i­tated wet­land was an im­por­tant part of the lower La­trobe River wet­lands. “Whilst most of it does not come un­der the Ram­sar site bound­ary, it's a vi­tal part of the Ram­sar-listed Gipp­s­land Lakes sys­tem,” he said. “The three lower La­trobe River wet­lands pro­vide dif­fer­ent habi­tat and eco­log­i­cal func­tions, crit­i­cal to the over­all en­vi­ron­men­tal health of the area and the Gipp­s­land re­gion.”

Mr Fuller said joint man­age­ment of Heart Mo­rass with project part­ners, FGA, WET Trust, Hugh Wil­liamson Foun­da­tion, Bug Blitz, Water Mark and WGCMA had been in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful and re­sulted in ex­cel­lent en­vi­ron­men­tal, ed­u­ca­tional, recre­ational and so­cial out­comes. “WGCMA is proud to be a part of this and keen to con­tinue to play an ac­tive role,” he said. “The Heart Mo­rass is one of WGCMA'S high­est pri­or­ity project sites and we will con­tinue to con­trib­ute to the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, man­age­ment, ed­u­ca­tional and pro­mo­tional ef­forts of the wet­land. “Man­aged wa­ter­ing events are planned to con­tinue into the fu­ture and, hope­fully with gov­ern­ment fund­ing ap­proval, new wa­ter­ing in­fra­struc­ture will be built to im­prove the wa­ter­ing man­age­ment, goals and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the wet­land.”

The beauty of Heart Morass is un­de­ni­able

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