Wetland Revival Trust celebrates World Wetland Day with significant progress in Future Drought Fund Project

Jo and Greg Bear Photo by Rory McLeod 1024x540 1

Jo and Greg Bear. Photo by Rory McLeod.

In the lead-up to World Wetland Day on February 2nd, the Wetland Revival Trust (WRT) continues to make significant strides in their Future Drought Fund Project. Launched in mid 2022, this initiative seeks to elevate drought resilience by rejuvenating wetlands, enhancing soil health, and creating vital refuges for endangered species.

Damien Cook, Co-founder, Wetland Revival Trust, emphasised the holistic impact of the project, stating, “Our efforts extend beyond wetland restoration; they’re about fostering a symbiotic relationship between nature and agriculture.”

“We are collaborating closely with local farmers, contractors, and Traditional Owners. The project focuses on restoring 12 wetlands across the expansive Loddon River Floodplain and our comprehensive approach includes site assessments, collaborative design of wetland restoration plans, earthworks, seed collection, plant propagation, vegetation, and soil carbon monitoring, weed control, and extensive revegetation efforts.”

Bradley Haw, a dedicated landholder participating in the project, says, “Witnessing the resurgence of native wetland vegetation on our land isn’t just an environmental win; it’s a strategic investment in the resilience of our farms and the prosperity of our communities.”

The positive impact is already evident, with native Golden-bellied Water Rats and the nationally endangered Growling Grass Frogs returning to some of the restored sites. The threatened Stiff Groundsel, once presumed extinct, is now thriving at several of the wetlands, showcasing the tangible success of WRT’s conservation efforts.

The delicate balance of wetland ecosystems relies on a natural cycle of flooding and drying to sustain their rich biodiversity and productivity. Unfortunately, human activities such as river regulation and construction projects have disrupted this balance, reducing the frequency of flooding in many wetlands.

To counteract these impacts, the project has involved constructing water delivery infrastructure, using environmental water to re-establish the crucial flooding and drying cycles needed for the health of River Red Gum and Black Box trees, ground-layer plants, and wetland animals like frogs and water birds. This initiative continues to enhance habitat values for native wildlife by fostering the growth of wetland vegetation.

In order to rejuvenate wetland vegetation, the project has been employing various techniques, including the planting of nursery-grown seedlings and direct seeding. The swift establishment of a dense cover of indigenous wetland plants is paramount, preventing weed invasion, soil erosion, and providing a suitable habitat for native wetland animals.

Damien adds, “All plant species chosen for restoration efforts are locally indigenous, carefully selected based on their adaptability to specific environmental conditions, such as water depth, bank gradient, and soil type. The engagement of local First Nations people in seed collection and their employment in planting and direct seeding endeavours further aligns with the project’s commitment to fostering a harmonious relationship between nature and the community.”

As part of the comprehensive project, water delivery infrastructure has also been constructed to enable the controlled delivery of water into wetlands from existing irrigation channel systems. This strategic intervention not only facilitated the restoration of wetland vegetation but also contributed to the improvement of water quality and soil health. Additionally, by involving local communities, the project ensured a sustainable and inclusive approach to the restoration of wetland ecosystems, emphasising the importance of preserving these vital habitats for generations to come.

In collaboration with Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab, the project is also actively monitoring soil carbon capture and greenhouse gas balance in the wetlands. This research aims to provide invaluable insights into the role freshwater inland wetlands play in carbon sequestration, highlighting the interconnectedness of environmental health and agricultural prosperity.

Dr Deborah Nias, Executive Officer, Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ltd, says, “The FDF wetlands are a great example of co-investment in natural assets on private land, especially to support nationally threatened species. Landholders, the private sector, philanthropy, First Nations people and government all need to work together if we are going to protect our waterways, wetlands and biodiversity into the future. The need is urgent and on World Wetlands Day, we are pleased to be able to showcase success stories where this collaboration has made this vision possible.”

Dr Lukas Schuster, Research Fellow, Blue Carbon Lab, Deakin Marine Research and Innovation Centre, says, “The restoration of degraded freshwater wetlands represents an exciting opportunity for climate change mitigation as they have the potential to sequester and store up to twice as much carbon as terrestrial forests.”

“It is particularly exciting to see increased efforts to restore degraded freshwater wetlands across Australia, where the efficacy of such restoration efforts to return these degraded ecosystems to their old selves remains largely unclear. This is why we are investigating the carbon cycling dynamics within restored wetlands, with special focus on greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon stocks, and soil carbon turnover rates.”

“We have the unique opportunity to assess the efficacy of current restoration practices and improve the way we manage these ecosystems, with widespread benefits for both the environment and the farmers themselves.”

The Wetland Revival Trust’s project, funded by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, is strategically addressing the broader impacts of climate change on agriculture. The focus extends beyond mitigating drought risks to recognise and build resilience against a spectrum of climatic challenges.

Jo Bear, Sheep and Environmental Farmer, who is deeply engaged in the project, emphasises the seamless alignment of their farming philosophy with the wetland revival project, stating, “Our holistic approach, rooted in the belief that ‘If you look after nature, nature will look after you,’ revolves around diversity, curiosity, and growth. Engaged with the Wetland Revival Trust, we recognise the value of wetlands in fostering a flourishing mindset and a successful business. Nestled on the Loddon River Floodplains, our goal is to recreate the historically interconnected wetlands, vital for plant and wildlife diversity. The transformative impact of wetlands on our environment, from flood regulation to a softer, lusher landscape, is evident. Our commitment extends to eco-tourism, with the wetlands serving as a key attraction. Operating on a 2500ha farm at Canary Island, utilising holistic grazing for 4500 Merino ewes, we prioritise low-input practices for a sustainable and thriving business, both economically and socially.”

Project Highlights 

  • 60,000 wetland plants planted to date, with an additional 50,000 planned for first half of 2024.
  • Eight active landholders collaborating with the initiative.
  • Restoration efforts spanning 12 wetlands with earthworks and watering infrastructure upgrades at seven sites to restore hydrology.
  • Installation of fencing to manage stock grazing around wetlands.
  • Collaborative efforts with Traditional Owners, employing 13 people for seed collection and revegetation.
  • Environmental water delivery totalling 263ML before December 2023 with water supplied by the Murray Darling Wetland Working Group.


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