The overarching theme of our conference followed the Ramsar theme for 2022 of ‘Wetlands Action for People & Nature’. The 2-day conference was divided into 4 half-days, each of which is set to feature the following themes - Leadership, Reconciliation, Sustainability and Partnerships.
THE SUSTAINABILITY SESSION
Day 2 | Morning | Thursday, 3rd February 2022
To develop and deliver standards, processes, projects, and/or programs that are environmentally, socially and economically justified.
Re-enlivening wetlands: infusing through the sciences, the arts, and activism
This paper is framed by the concept of wetlands as living systems. We start with a consideration of how wetlands conform to three principles of life and lifeforms: the ability to evolve, to be bounded physical entities but intimate with their environments, and to operate as purposeful wholes. Side-by-side, in the second perspective, we will use historical, ethnographic and generational storying of the Beeliar wetlands, how they have been used, where foods are, the stomping ground of ceremony, a spirit, to consider wetlands as long time places. A third perspective sees wetlands as agentic and lively, and how we come to make the shift from walking to wetlands, to walking with wetlands. We consider the adjustments necessary to shift thinking beyond the cognitive and the abstract, to the affective, multisensory, embodied and emergent, and how we see ourselves as part of wetlands, and wetlands as part of us. Our presentations will be followed by an interaction between the three speakers where they will respond to each other around the contexts of activism and action - what it might take to re-enliven wetlands, at which point we will be joined by audience comments and questions. Our aim is to leave with a gratitude (for regeneration), a respect (for spirit), and a re-iteration (to remember), of what it is to be wetland.
Expert Presentation 1
New methods for creating drought refuges for imperilled freshwater species in southwestern Australia
Southwestern Australia’s drying climate threatens the survival of native freshwater species through loss of permanently flowing rivers and perennial wetlands. Climatic drying since the turn of the millennium has caused many formerly perennial streams and lakes to begin to dry out each year, caused by a combination of declining groundwater levels and low rainfall. Solutions are few, as new water cannot be created to replace lost rainfall, yet substantial species losses have already occurred in response to drying. Recent research shows substantial losses of diversity in wheatbelt lakes inside nature reserves and streams in water catchments in the Perth Hills, and negative effects of drying on frog populations. A new solution is to manage remaining permanent freshwaters as biodiversity refuges, wherever the water is located in the landscape, including natural and artificial waterbodies on both private and public land. These permanent waterbodies can act as drought refuges - places where native species can persist during dry periods and from which they can spread out to repopulate the landscape during wetter times. Current research shows that artificial waterbodies such as farm dams can support significant native diversity, but management is required to transform them into drought refuges. Communities and natural resource management agencies are keen to manage these drought refuges, but there are no appropriate methods or guidelines available to support their management (especially for artificial waterbodies). Our new project, funded by a State NRM Community Collaboration Grant, aims to identify refuges, understand their biodiversity and ecological function and develop new management methods applicable to both natural and artificial waterbodies. This includes field trials of some new potential methods for increasing their capacity to support biodiversity. The project focuses in 2 regions: the Perth Hills (supported by Perth NRM) and the Harvey region (supported by the Harvey River Restoration Taskforce and Peel-Harvey CC). We are seeking additional perennially-inundated sampling sites (natural and artificial) and citizen scientists to volunteer to collect waterbird and frog data for the project.
Expert Presentation 2
Environmental DNA in freshwater ecology: characteristics and prospects of an emerging biomonitoring tool
• Introduction: definition of eDNA, characteristics
• Analytical background – TrEnD Lab at Curtin
• Examples of studies in water ecology
• eDNA in wetland biomonitoring
• Connecting “who is there?” (via eDNA) with “what are they doing?” (via stable isotopes analysis)
• The eDGES programme and conclusions
Establishing eDNA as a monitoring tool and determining a best practice protocols - Fish Assemblages in the Canning River
Freshwater ecosystems are highly dynamic systems that host a wide variety of biodiversity and offer essential services. Unfortunately, these systems are increasingly subject to threats such as altered hydrology and water quality, climate change and invasive species. Western Australian freshwater systems are not exempt from this global trend, and many need management to enhance and preserve their biodiversity values. To make management decisions, robust, efficient monitoring efforts are required to understand the current state and trends within the system and what management actions are required. Traditionally, animal biodiversity is monitored by physically capturing and identifying the target species, but over the last decade, environmental DNA (eDNA) monitoring has emerged as a complementary method to traditional methods. This study contrasted eDNA and traditional fyke netting for sampling aquatic vertebrates in the highly modified Canning River in Perth. Additionally, as an alternative to the more labour-intensive active filtration method, we investigated if passive eDNA sampling could be used successfully in a freshwater system, as previously published studies were in marine environments. The implications of this research are the development of an eDNA monitoring protocol that will complement traditional monitoring methods, leading to the potential for greater stewardship of the Canning River. Freshwater ecosystems are highly dynamic systems that host a wide variety of biodiversity and offer.
Expert Presentation 3
Wetland Buffers - A controversial subject
Establishing wetland buffers is one component of an integrated approach to wetland protection and management in WA. Wetland buffers are essential to wetland conservation, providing for the long-term protection, maintenance and enhancement of important features that support wetland values. Buffering involves separating a wetland from the adjacent land uses that might threaten its desired values such as habitat for waterbirds or other wildlife that call wetlands home. Buffers also ensure wetland activities do not impact unduly on important land uses, through either spatial separation or through the use of physical barriers.
A large body of research is available that establishes evidence of the importance of wetland buffers to protect wetland habitat and other critical components of wetlands, some of which is summarised in this presentation.
Case Study 1
Studying and managing wetlands from the sky
Case Study 2
Long-term wetland vegetation monitoring in the South-west
Monitoring the vegetation condition of groundwater-dependent wetlands across the SW forms part of a long-term program run by Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER). The aim of the monitoring is to ensure current and/or proposed groundwater use does not negatively impact representative ecosystems. Outcomes inform the review of Water Allocation Plans and license assessments for the Gnangara, Jandakot and South-West groundwater area plans. Sites across the Swan Coastal Plain, Scott Coastal Plain and Blackwood Plateau monitored either in-house or by contractors on an annual or triennial basis since 1996. The monitoring represents a substantial investment of money and time by DWER. This type of long-term intensive monitoring of vegetation condition is quite unusual and the Gnangara monitoring dataset represents one of the most extensive on a global scale. This presentation will discuss the monitoring approach and outline the methodologies we use.