ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Billabong-Yanco Creek Wetland Monitoring Project (2017-2018)

Funding

Murray Local Land Services, $80,218

Investigators/researchers

Dr Amelia Walcott, Associate Professor Skye Wassens, Dr Andrew Hall, Dr Ben Wolfenden and Associate Professor Ben Wilson,

Research Theme(s)

Environmental Water

Description

Like other systems in the Murrumbidgee catchment, the hydrology of the Billabong-Yanco creek has changed immensely due to water extraction and regulation.  While the delivery of environmental water to help maintain and improve the water-dependent creek and wetland communities has been an objective for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, very limited information on the biota of the system is available to guide such actions.

This ILWS project provided baseline knowledge on a range of floodplain wetland characteristics with important implications for natural resource management of the system. Fifteen wetlands were selected across the system for their high conservation value. For each wetland:

  • wetland boundaries were delineated (via spatial analysis)
  • rapid habitat assessments described over and understorey vegetation
  • wetland soil carbon stocks were estimated from a range of depths throughout the wetlands
  • frog species diversity was described from two surveys, and
  • call recorders monitored frog calling activity at a subset of the sites on an hourly schedule from October 2017 until February 2018.

Photo Dr Amelia Walcott taking soil samples

The key findings from the project include:

  • wetland carbon stocks increased with depth meaning that soils which retained water for longer durations stored comparatively higher levels of carbon
  • a small population of Southern bell frogs (a threatened species) were identified along the mid-Yanco creek system
  • the hourly call recorder data revealed multiple breeding attempts by Southern bell frogs between October 2017 and February 2018 at one of the sites
  • a higher diversity (and abundance) of frog species were observed in wetland habitats with a higher complexity and coverage of aquatic plants, as well as where water persisted during peak breeding times.

Photo A Barking marsh frog, Limnodynastes fletcheri

Outputs

Findings of this research were made available to the Yanco-Billabong community to communicate the floodplain assets within their region and the benefits of flooding (natural and environmental) to maintaining these important wetland systems. This included:

  • summary letters for the participating Landholders following each field trip
  1. Project profile
  2. Letter 1
  3. Letter 2
  4. Summary of Results
  • interactive presentations to school groups at the ‘Creative Catchment Kids program: ‘Who lives in the Water? Billabong-Yanco Creek Gala Event’ and general public at the ‘Wetland Wonders of the Yanco, Billabong and Colombo Creeks information night’. (Both events organised by the Murray Local Land Services).

Outcomes

The high carbon storage estimated for key wetlands in the system, as well as identification of a small population of threatened frog species (the Southern bell frog) has important implications for future water delivery to the Yanco-Billabong system.

Contact

Associate Professor Skye Wassens email
Charles Sturt University Albury-Wodonga

May 2019