Conference ProgramWetlands and Human Wellbeing

A program committed to increasing our knowledge, awareness, understanding and commitment to the conservation, interpretation and management of Wetlands

Conference
Program

Aligned with the 2024 Ramsar theme 'Wetlands and Human Wellbeing', our conference unfolds in four half-day sessions – The Floodplains, The Mangroves, The Billabongs, and The Marshes. These sessions showcase the expertise of leading wetland scientists, managers, academics, and artists, offering a blend of cutting-edge research, innovative management practices, and insightful case studies that highlight the essential role of wetlands in our wellbeing and cultural landscape.

FLOODPLAINS

Day 1 | Morning
Thursday, 1st February 2024

MANGROVES

Day 1 | Afternoon
Thursday, 1st February 2024

BILLABONGS

Day 2 | Morning
Friday, 2nd February 2024

MARSHES

Day 2 | Afternoon
Friday, 2nd February 2024


THE FLOODPLAINS SESSION

Day 1 | Morning | Thursday, 1st February 2024


Embodying the vastness and fertility of floodplains, this session delves into the diverse dynamics of wetland ecosystems. It encompasses a range of topics, paralleling the rich diversity and extensive reach of floodplain environments.

Keynote

Story, Place and Identity Within Contemporary Contexts of Eco-Theology and Saving Our Planet

This paper speaks of an Indigenous perspective of growing a dialogue within environmental concerns and spiritual and Indigenous knowledges relating to caring for Country and Belonging to Country. In terms of cultural sovereignty one's connection to the land and waterways plays a significant role in duties and obligations to Country. This paper is interpreting these obligations through eco-theology and the ever expanding community and scholarly engagement with the existential concerns of the Planet and our waterways and water holes in particular. The paper discusses story and place within a dialogue of speaking for Country, indeed focusing on spiritual connection and practical wisdom. How can the way we see the world, connect with the world, and Be in the world bring us to listen to the Earth and be in simpatico with the Earth's groaning for relief and healing?

Expert Presentations

Linking Wetland Ecosystem Health to Improved Human Wellbeing: A Win-Win Opportunity

Time spent in nature has measurable human health benefits, providing strong reasons to conserve wetlands in urban areas. People who regularly spend time near wetlands experience improved psychological wellbeing (mental restoration and lower stress levels), a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and greater opportunity for socialisation and physical activity. While the health benefits of spending time in nature are increasingly understood, it remains unknown if these benefits increase with the ecological quality (i.e., biodiversity and organismal health) of wetlands. Wetlands with high ecological quality may confer greater health benefits to people, providing a rare win-win conservation opportunity. This research investigated if the health benefits gained by nature-users increase with levels of ecological quality. Hundreds of wetland-users were surveyed across Perth and these data were coupled with measures of wetland biodiversity and water quality. This research delivers novel insights into the links between wetland ecosystem health and human health, whilst also providing local and international governments with the knowledge necessary for evidence-based conservation planning.

Bottle Top Hill: A Grassroots Movement 'Taking It to The Top' With The 12r's

Not just for survival, water is an element to which we are drawn. This calling to the blue space can nurture us with hidden healing powers and a sense of wellbeing. On the surface, the gentle transformations that take place in the Wetlands connects us to a life of tranquillity, helping us to reconnect, to adopt a slower pace, to reduce the stress of a modern world. Below the surface, the impact of our modern world is having a detrimental effect on our waterways, the richness of natural minerals and applying stress to the living organisms that depend on it. In order to protect the environment that we so heavily rely upon, we need to understand our impact, determine ways to protect it, and collaborate with others from all walks of life on a defined pathway for change. Bottle Top Hill is a grassroots movement, using a method (inspired by Traditional Owners to hand down knowledge through a storyline) that can be retold – the 12 R’s – teaching us to live sustainably all year round. BTH also encompasses monthly public events to engage with the broader community. First Chapter belongs to First Nations – Respect. The final chapter is brought to life through imagery and art, as shown through an installation featured in the 2023 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe, WA and Bondi, NSW, aiming to deliver a message of HOPE. You are invited to be part of our Story and to begin a journey to collaborate and inspire others.

The Saving Our Snake-Necked Turtle Project – Two Year Update

Southwestern snake-necked turtle (Chelodina oblonga) populations within urban environments are in decline. Road mortality and increased predation are reducing nesting female, nest and hatchling survivorship and thereby recruitment. The Saving Our Snake-Necked Turtle project aims to remedy these threats by uniting turtle ecologists, local councils and citizen scientists throughout southwest WA. This talk outlines the significant expansion and effectiveness of this program over the first two years.

Expert Presentations

Desert Wetlands: Just Add Water

Of the thousands of wetlands spread through the Western Australian arid zones very few have been surveyed for their biodiversity values. These include springs and associated aquifers, gnammas, rock holes, river pools, floodplains, freshwater lakes, claypans, and salt lakes. The rare permanent waters provide refuges for relictual species and those without drought tolerance mechanisms. The vast salt lake systems, many as significant as Kati Thandi, include a wide range of wetlands and, when these fill during major rain events, they are an important part of the desert’s ‘boom’ ecology, supporting aquatic and terrestrial biota. Arid zone wetlands have tended to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ due to their remoteness, because they tend to be dry most of the time and, until recently, they have been relatively isolated from threats other than pastoralism. Over the last two decades there has been a rapid expansion of interest in the mineral resources in and around the salt lakes, including gold, uranium, potash and lithium, and mining for these has the potential to greatly alter the character of these systems. With almost none of these in the conservation estate there is an urgent need to increase our understanding of the values of arid zone wetlands. This paper summarises new information from recent surveys with data from a number of surveys undertaken over the last 25 years to provide an insight into the extent, distribution and significance of arid zone wetland biodiversity in Western Australia.

Working Together to Manage a Threatened Ecological Community

Globally there has been a sharp decline in saltmarshes, with the Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh of Australia listed as a Threatened Ecological Community (TEC) in 2013. Saltmarsh communities in Southwestern Australia have a high diversity and endemicity of several groups, including Tecticornia species. However, a survey undertaken as early as 1987 found that the Swan River Estuary had lost around 50% of its coastal wetlands. The Maylands Samphire Flats contain a large saltmarsh community that has been historically modified, which has resulted in fragmentation of the samphire community, introduction of weed species, changed topography, and altered hydrological conditions. In this presentation we provide insights and learnings into the management of this saltmarsh community, and how successful partnerships between land manager, volunteers and contractors can lead to optimal outcomes.

Assessing Water Governance for Livelihoods: Social Relations and Conflict Interactions in the Hoor al-Azim Wetland, Karkheh Basin

The Karkheh River and Hoor al-Azim wetland, located in southwestern Iran, supports the local economy and livelihoods of surrounding communities. Effective water governance is needed to sustain wetland-dependent livelihoods. The Hoor al-Azim wetland has faced environmental issues in recent years due to factors like water scarcity, dams upstream, pollution, and unsustainable practices, all contributing to its degradation. Water governance involves diverse stakeholders across different administrative levels. This research assesses these networks using social network analysis to provide insights for improving wetland management. Objectives included evaluating networks, identifying key actors, and representing conflicts. Interviews and surveys were conducted with stakeholders in Khuzestan province and the Dashte-e-Azadegan and Hoveyzeh counties near the Hoor al-Azim wetland in 2023. Institutions were categorized by roles and other attributes. Social network analysis examined network structures and conflicts. Results show central government authorities are influential actors. Restructuring the existing governance model is imperative. For a proposed new model, it is crucial to engage non-governmental stakeholders and civil society representatives in water governance. Ministry of Oil subsidiaries conducting unsustainable oil exploration in the wetland were not influential in interaction networks but were highly embedded in conflict networks. Environmental and water authorities were central in multiple disputes. Findings advance understanding of governance complexity under water scarcity. Assessing dependencies, conflicts, and social relations provides novel perspectives on water governance effectiveness and opportunity for improvement.

Case Studies

Social Media vs Wetland Biodiversity

A small unassuming piece of wetland habitat in the Gwelup area became a community sensation when people started posting high quality content from the secret location. Once the location became public, the Secret Garden became a must visit spot, drawing thousands to people to it. The case study touches on the challenges this raised for the local community and local biodiversity and outlines how the City has managed this evolving space over time.

Wetland Thievery and Piracy Through the Eyes of a Drone

Complex relationships occur between our wetland birds and animals, which often go unnoticed. Through a drones-eye, we will discover that life is not always fair on the water, especially for those that fish for a living. Ethical droning considerations will also be highlighted throughout this presentation featuring ecological relationships in our own backyard/backwater.

Track Your Way – Turtle Trackers – City of Cockburn

This presentation offers a unique volunteer perspective on the efforts to protect and conserve the Southwestern snake-necked turtle, a species facing increasing threats from environmental changes and human activities. The project highlights the success of collaborative efforts involving strategic planning, community engagement, and innovative conservation techniques. The focus is on the significant achievements over the past two years, demonstrating the project's sustainability and effectiveness in fostering a healthier population of this native species. The presentation aims to inspire and inform others about the crucial role of volunteer involvement in wildlife conservation, emphasizing the positive impact such initiatives have on local biodiversity.

THE MANGROVES SESSION

Day 1 | Afternoon | Thursday, 1st February 2024


Reflecting the unique convergence of land and sea in mangroves, this panel session merges science with humanities in wetlands. It explores the interplay of ecological knowledge and cultural insights, akin to the intertwined roots of mangroves at the water's edge.

Forums 1 & 2

Forum 1: Art and Science: Exhibits and Actions

In this first hour, conference delegates will be invited to engage with four artists on wetland subjects, wetland depictions, and wetland actions. The ‘activity’ will be in the form of a presentation, a viewing, or an interaction of some sort.

Convenor: Professor Mindy Blaise, Centre for People Place and Planet.
Contributors: (for each of the four activities)

  • Mr Trevor Ryan
  • Dr Liz Edmonds
  • Mrs Sabrina Dowling Giudici
  • Mr Anton Blume

Forum 2: Art, Science and Wetland Knowledges

In a facilitated discussion, artists from Forum 1 will briefly address the questions of what contributions art and artists can play in understanding and managing wetlands and the audience will be invited to respond. The dialogue will be directed to include considerations of instrumental and relational values, Indigenous perspectives, education, embodiment, materials and technology, and subjective and objective accounts, in the construction of wetland knowledges. The dialogue will be recorded by rapporteurs and participants will be encouraged to be involved in the production of a conference statement on the role of the arts in wetland knowledges and future imperatives for wetland management.

Forums 3 & 4

Wetland Stories Presented Through Video, Audio and Interactive Displays

This unique exhibition, inspired by the internationally significant Peel-Yalgorup Wetlands, sought to explore the profound connection between local wetlands and community identity through various artistic mediums. The exhibition featured an array of artistic elements, including video, audio, interactive displays, fine art photography, mixed media, textiles, and sculptural ceramic installations. These components were carefully curated to engage visitors in a sensory-rich experience, allowing them to immerse themselves in the intricate stories of the wetlands. The professional soundtrack of birds and water sounds from the estuary, coupled with the stunning videography of 'Wetlands Above', brought the essence of the wetlands to life within the gallery space. The aim of "Wetland Stories" was not only to showcase the beauty and significance of the wetlands but also to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for these ecosystems. The artists hoped to inspire action for their conservation by presenting stories of hope, loss, resilience, and heroism that have evolved through the interaction of the local community with these natural habitats.

 

This exhibition stood as a celebration of art, identity, and conservation, creating an immersive experience that resonated with visitors of all ages. It also included various special events like artist talks, community conservation group presentations, and interactive workshops, further enriching the visitors' understanding and engagement with the themes presented

Wetland Whispers: Contemporary Arts as a Lens for Environmental Empathy

Miriam Wei Wei Lo, David Whish-Wilson, Liana Joy Christensen and Angela Rossen on a panel hosted by Lakshmi Kanchi

An immersive panel discussion led by Lakshmi Kanchi featuring a selection of nationally renowned contemporary artists. This session delves into the intricate relationship between contemporary art, visual storytelling, poetry, literature and the profound spirituality of wetlands. It will be a dialogue on the dynamic interplay between the humanities and wetlands, where art acts as a medium for environmental awareness and emotional engagement. Reflecting on Kanchi's transformative Poet-in-Residence program at The Wetlands Centre, the panel will explore the role of contemporary art, literature and eco-poetry in fostering community involvement, activism, and awareness of climate change. The session will reveal how these unique initiatives have evolved beyond their initial concept, blossoming into a rich tapestry of workshops, exhibitions, and collaborations. It showcases the compelling ability of art to connect diverse groups, from children to elders, across different cultures, thereby enhancing environmental education. This panel is an invitation to witness the transformative influence of art, as it captures the essence of the wetlands and inspires a deeper commitment to environmental care and collective well-being.



THE BILLABONGS SESSION

Day 2 | Morning | Friday, 2nd February 2024


Inspired by the secluded and vibrant life of billabongs, this session delves into specialised areas of wetland research. It mirrors the focused and introspective nature of billabongs, highlighting unique and in-depth studies.

Keynote

Water Is Life in Our Dry State

In a mediterranean to semi arid climate wetlands in South West Australia are normally ephemeral, but are vital components for our world class plant diversity. This can be demonstrated using a series of examples from our many surveys over the past 40 years. Saline systems mainly of the Wheatbelt (old and under appreciated). Claypans, mainly on the Swan Coastal Plain (? young and incredibly biodiverse). Seeps and Springs, especially in the northern Jarrah Forest, at Julimar Forest where our current surveys have been focused. These are diverse in unusual plants and plant communities, but very poorly known and understood. They were probably a major refuge for climate change in the past, and present. Finally linear wetlands which are major plant corridors linking the Forest and the Swan Coastal Plain.

While many people focus on lakes as our vanishing wetlands (and they are significant) this review will hopefully demonstrate that WAs incredible diversity of plants is intimately linked to our broad, diverse range of ephemeral wetlands and these face many challenges now and in the future. One example is the rediscovery of a small everlasting in a wetland near York this year that was last recorded in 1849! If this wetland had been lost so would that species.

Expert Presentations

The Vegetation Dynamics of Ephemeral Wetlands

Wetland vegetation dynamics were assessed over a ten-year period on the floodplain of the Ovens River, downstream of Wangaratta in north-east Victoria. Transects were assessed twice a year with conditions varying from “normal”, to drought, to significant flooding during the 2010 / 2011 La Nina year on the east coast, and finally back to “normal” again. This study provided a dramatic picture of vegetation change over time in response to the changing conditions. Similar vegetation changes can be observed at many wetlands, with ephemeral wetlands being particularly dynamic. Leanings from this study can be applied to wetlands in WA where Climate Change induced reductions in rainfall are leading to flow regime changes e.g. extended dry periods. These changes are reflected in vegetation community composition but, where additional water sources are available, can be reversed – just add more water.

Precarious Suckers: The Bladderworts of the Cape Le Grand-Mandooweernup Wetlands

The pristine freshwater wetland systems of Mandooweernup (Cape le Grand) near Esperance support a unique suite of aquatic plants and are also significant cultural heritage places. As part of his PhD project, Thilo Krueger conducted a collaborative research project with the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation to study aquatic bladderworts (genus Utricularia) which occur in exceptional diversity at Mandooweernup. These carnivorous plants capture small aquatic prey animals in a fraction of a second using their intricate suction traps, enabling them to obtain supplementary macro nutrients to thrive in extremely nutrient-poor habitats. Two bladderwort species are endemic to a very small area within these wetlands and are potentially threatened by eutrophication from nearby farmlands as well as climate change.

Rivers And Wetlands of the South-West: A Tragedy in Four Acts

Freshwater environments support much greater biodiversity than either the land or the sea, but this diversity is being lost at an alarming rate, with global populations of freshwater species having declined by an average of 83% in the last 50 years. Despite this, freshwater ecosystems receive very little political, public or even scientific interest, in comparison to terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In Western Australia, 80% of river systems have had major disturbances to their hydrology and ecology, and 70% of wetlands on the Swan coastal plain have been lost since European settlement. The terrestrial reserve system is ineffective in preventing the loss of freshwater biodiversity, as highlighted by recent research on freshwater fishes and macroinvertebrates. In addition, although the integrity of waterways is ostensibly protected by many separate pieces of legislation, a lack of integration and prioritization of human use over ecosystem health values often means that protection is sub-standard. The conservation of Western Australia’s unique freshwater biodiversity requires a major change in political and public mindset.

Expert Presentations

Ecological Indicators of Fire Disturbance Affecting Water Quality in Wetlands

Wildland fires generate loads of nutrients, organics and metals that may consequently pollute rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater. However, the chemical composition of samples often shows significant variability resulting in difficulties in assessment of impacts. To assess the stage of thermal transformation of soils and litter, we performed laboratory burning followed by the evaluation of the chemical composition of leachate. This paper shows that activities of Ca2+ and CO3-2 are efficient ecological indicators of the degree of post-fire transformation. The indicators are derived from (1) pH, (2) alkalinity, and (3) Ca concentrations. They not only inform on the thermal transformation or burn severity, but they imply what other contaminants are likely to be released during wildland fires. Furthermore, the indicators typically show a significant spread in typical temperatures of wildland fires and they are independent on the time since the previous fire. Finally, the indicators give promising results in the field conditions, when water samples of surface runoff were taken using simulated rainfall. In conclusion, the Ca2+ and CO3-2 activities serve as a quick evaluation tool of water quality effects of prescribed burns and wildfires. Either ash composition or surface runoff water quality samples suffice to perform the assessment. There is a need to evaluate the indicators in the wider range of ecological settings.

The Most Outwardly Wetlands: Current Studies and Future Prospects in Salt Lake Ecology

Salt lakes are one of the most unique and extreme wetland systems that dominate the landscape of Western Australia. Their size, diversity, and spatial distribution makes them an interesting and key ecological system to study. Salt lake systems, and the paleochannels that connect them, provide habitat for an extensive range of biota, ranging from microscopic algae to extremophilic aquatic fauna, and some of the largest concentrations of waterbirds. Biologically, these systems are extremely dynamic, showing significant fluctuations driven by rainfall events, shifting from a dry, hypersaline system with dormant propagules, to an inundated mesohaline oasis, following significant flood events. Our team has been studying salt lakes in Western Australia for a cumulative period of over 100 years. Our focus within these unique systems has ranged from innovative approaches in spatial and temporal sampling, to improving taxonomic resolution of less-known species, to species distribution mapping, to ecotoxicology studies, to hydrological and hydrogeological modelling, to future climatic analysis. This talk will summarise the challenges, opportunities, frontiers and future directions in studying salt lake systems in Western Australia.

Wetland–Catchment Sustainability: The Case of the Sakumo Ramsar Site, Ghana

Coastal wetlands, intricate ecosystems rich in biodiversity, play a pivotal role in supporting human well-being. They offer a multitude of advantages, including flood mitigation and essential resources for local communities. However, these unique ecosystems are increasingly vulnerable to both natural and human-induced disturbances, exacerbated by factors like industrialization, urbanization, and the spectre of climate change. The threats confronting coastal wetlands worldwide have relevance to Ghana, especially in the case of the Sakumo Ramsar site, which grapples with imminent peril from land modifications. To identify the key factor influencing the Sakumo Ramsar Site and to chart a sustainable path forward, the study assesses critical land use and land cover (LULC) changes between 1990 and 2020 in the Sakumo wetland catchment area. Using geospatial techniques and intensity analysis, patterns of LULC changes and other factors were examined. These changes were overwhelmingly attributed to a surge in human activities. The study outcomes underscore the pressing need for comprehensive and proactive methods of LULC change analysis to safeguard the Sakumo Ramsar site and similar ecosystems. By enhancing our understanding of these transformations, we can actively promote biodiversity conservation and ensure the sustainable utilization of wetland resources, thereby advancing human well-being while preserving these invaluable ecosystems.

Case Studies

Aquatic and Terrestrial Invertebrate Survey of the Maylands Samphire Flats

The Maylands Samphire Flats, located in Clarkson Reserve, are a naturally occurring saltmarsh and contains the Threatened Ecological Community 'Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh'. The site has been modified through the clearing of native vegetation, residential development and the digging of drainage lines. Since 2012, the Friends of Maylands Samphires have been weeding and revegetating the saltmarsh and, in 2020, the City of Bayswater commissioned a ten-year management plan to guide future restoration of the Maylands Samphire Flats.

In September 2022, Biologic surveyed aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate fauna survey in order to understand how some of the fauna use the saltmarsh as habitat. Terrestrial sampling methods included sweep netting and foraging, while aquatic sampling methods included in-situ water quality, habitat assessments, and kick-sweeping with dip nets for macroinvertebrates. Water quality ranged from saline to hypersaline, and dissolved oxygen was generally low. We recorded 36 terrestrial invertebrates and 71 aquatic macroinvertebrates. Aquatic taxa included a mix of freshwater and marine species. Two freshwater fish species were also recorded: the native Pseudogobius olorum (Swan River goby) and introduced Gambusia sp. (mosquitofish). Overall, conditions were considered suitable for supporting invertebrate fauna and demonstrates the general health of the Maylands Samphires.

Planting native vegetation is often the main focus of restoration projects but its value as habitat is often not assessed. Our results show the value of surveying invertebrates to demonstrate the success of habitat creation in saltmarsh restoration, and should be considered in future management planning.

Ashfield Flats Master Plan

Ashfield Flats is the largest remaining river flat in the Perth metropolitan area. The site contains a large occurrence of subtropical and tropical coastal saltmarsh which is recognized as a threatened ecological community by state and federal legislation. It is also a Bush Forever site (214), it hosts threatened migratory bird species and other native fauna, and is subject to unique natural processes that speak to Perth’s precolonial geomorphology. Ashfield Flats is much loved by a local and regional audience as place to connect with these natural qualities, but also as place for the community to connect with each other. Historic and current land use place pressures on the environment, and the future outlook will change how the site functions and is used, particularly in the face of climate change. A long term plan is required to address the current and anticipated pressures; conserve and adapt the natural values; and ensure that the social and cultural values remain viable; into the long term.

The Ashfield Flats Master Plan is a joint initiative between Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, Water Corporation, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Town of Bassendean and Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) who are the lead agency. Together, and with a multi-disciplinary consultant team, development of the Ashfield Flats Master Plan has been created to outline initiatives and resource implications for the long term management of the site.
Ashfield Flats is the largest remaining river flat in the Perth metropolitan area and contains a large occurence of subtropical and temperate coastal saltmarsh, a recognised threatened ecological community by State and Federal legislation. The site hosts threatened migratory bird species and other fauna, and natural processes that speak to Perth's pre-colonial geomorpholgy. Ashfield Flats is a much loved reserve by the local and regional communtiy,

A Partnership of a Friends Group and Local Council on The Rehabilitation of Foreshore Wetlands

Since formation in 2019, a Friends Group has worked in partnership with the City’s Parks Environment team to restore and rehabilitate the wetlands by planting native vegeatation, monitoring the waterbird populations and reporting on the well-being of the wetlands.
In 2020 the construction of Djirda Miya (a waterbird habitat island in the Swan River), initiated the group to establish a monitoring program to record changes in waterbird numbers and assess the impactof this project on the adjacent lakes of Hurlingham and Douglas.
The outcomes of the collaboration are rehabilitation of the lakes’ riparian zone with endemic species, the establishment of a waterbird database, an improved understanding of the use of the combined area by waterbirds and improved community engagement of the wetlands, albeit a passive resource.

Dan Carter, Rod and Jenny Safstrom and Emily Harvey, Friends of South Perth Wetlands
Paul Reed Environmental Operations, City of South Perth.

THE MARSHES SESSION

Day 2 | Afternoon | Friday, 2nd February 2024


Drawing inspiration from the adaptable and broad-reaching marshes, this workshop session covers impactful strategies in wetland management. It reflects the dynamic nature of marshes, emphasising adaptable and wide-ranging approaches to sustaining wetland ecosystems.

Keynote

Trends in Wetland Ecology, With Comments on Resolved and Unresolved Matters

Like most socio-cultural endeavours, science follows trends, and as a field of science wetland ecology is no exception. The relative emphasis on water chemistry, wetland geomorphology and hydrology, wetland plants and animals, wetland functions and processes, wetland management, wetland policy, and so on, varies, particularly over decadal time frames. What has been current and emphasized at the time regularly reflects broader international agendas, and national and State priorities. Trying to explain where these agendas and priorities themselves come from requires a closer look at emergent environmental themes, successful leaders in the field, political priorities, and where funding is directed. This talk will trace some of these patterns for wetland ecology with a focus on Western Australian wetlands, and draw a commentary on activities and outcomes, and the degree to which knowledge accumulates and policies and practices have changed.

Expert Presentations

Identifying Conditions for Ex-Situ Incubation of Freshwater Turtle (Chelodina Oblonga) Eggs to Optimise Hatching Success

Turtle populations worldwide are under threat, with many species listed as threatened or near threatened. Our endemic species, the southwest snake-necked turtle (Chelodina oblonga) is under pressure from habitat alteration, increased predation by feral and invasive species, as well as motor vehicle accidents. Higher predation rates of eggs and adults lead to low numbers of juveniles in urban wetlands. Interventions to increase juveniles in these areas are crucial to prevent local extinctions. Ex-situ incubation of eggs and the release of the resultant hatchlings has been used as a conservation method for several species with varying results. Very little research exists regarding ex-situ incubation methods for C. oblonga, and the effective implementation of ex-situ incubation programs depends on comprehensive research. This study investigated how incubation temperature and moisture levels impact C. oblonga hatching success. Eggs were collected from natural nests and deceased females and then incubated under varying conditions. A fluctuating temperature resembling natural nesting and a constant 28°C were tested, alongside wet and dry substrates. Hatching success was significantly higher under the fluctuating regime than the constant one. The interaction between temperature and moisture significantly affected hatchling survival, especially in the fluctuating temperature treatment, where moist conditions positively influenced survival. Post-mortem examinations revealed that most hatchlings that died in the constant treatment lacked an essential egg tooth. This study has direct implications for ex-situ breeding programs, providing valuable insights into enhancing the survival of the near-threatened southwestern snake-necked turtle. land managers about how best to manage our precious wetlands.

Restoration Of Urban Wetlands for Dragonfly Biodiversity

Dragonflies are some of the most aesthetically pleasing and most loved wetland insects, yet we know almost nothing about the ecology or biology of Australian species. Our research focused on understanding patterns of species diversity of dragonflies to identify the qualities of wetlands needed to maximise dragonfly diversity. The Beeliar wetlands were sampled in spring and summer to collect aquatic dragonfly nymphs, their exuviae, and to record adult presence/absence at species level. A variety of water quality, vegetation and landscape variables were also recorded. We found that vegetation (both aquatic and terrestrial) and water temperature were the variables most important to dragonflies. Dragonfly diversity was highest at wetlands with extensive stands of submerged and emergent aquatic plants and fringing trees, and at wetlands that were connected to other wetlands by native vegetation. This was because dragonfly nymphs use submerged vegetation to hunt and hide from predators and use emergent and fringing vegetation to emerge from the water and transform into the flying adult. Freshwater paperbark trees provide important habitat for metamorphosis and vital shade in summer. Common species tend to emerge as smaller adults in summer than in spring, and this may be due to changes in daylength. Laboratory experiments manipulating water temperature and depth showed that while warmer temperatures did not influence dragonfly emergence, declining depths did. As the climate continues to dry and wetlands are inundated for shorter and shorter periods, some dragonfly species may disappear from our wetlands. When restoring natural wetlands or managing created wetlands, it is vital that there is sufficient aquatic and terrestrial vegetation to support dragonflies and that some wetlands retain water all year round.

Canaries Off the Coastline as A Fish Kill Early Warning System

Water quality monitoring provides valuable information on understanding the impacts of anthropogenic influences on aquatic fauna. Such inferences are often derived from a small suite of parameters which may not encapsulate the wide range of stressors, some of which lead to fish kills. Monitoring even a small proportion of the potential pollutants at appropriate temporal and spatial scales is near impossible. Further hindering fish kill investigations are that dead fish initially sink and are only reported, if at all, when floatation is induced following bacterial decomposition, a process that takes at least several days. Thus, causes of fish kills often remain a mystery and this can only be overcome through the development of an early warning and response system. Biomonitoring, which directly measures the response by the fauna, has the potential to overcome these limitations. Bivalves, such as mussels, are synonymous to the canary in the coalmine, and are likewise highly susceptible to pollution. As filter feeders, bivalves, continuously taste the water for food and when pollutants are detected they close their shell for protection. Advancements in new technologies now enables this behavior to be monitored using sensors attached to the mussel’s shell and data livestreamed to the network in real time. Using this technology, this project aims to develop an early warning and response system for fish kills in the Peel region. This will be undertaken at six locations, with each station linked to school and ranger groups, who, in many cases will be the first responders.

Workshops

Everything You Wanted to Know About eDNA Based Monitoring

What is eDNA? Every organism sheds DNA into the environment – this is eDNA. We can now detect and identify these trace amounts of DNA from almost any substrate – soil, water, even air. This provides us with a means to rapidly and accurately identify species and survey biological communities. Just as cold cases in human crime scenes are solved with DNA we have developed an even more sophisticated sampling and analysis protocol that literally detects the footprints of an insect. When combined with high throughput DNA sequencing technologies, eDNA provides a wealth of information on biodiversity, food web dynamics, diet analysis, restoration ecology and invasive species which, until this technology, was unavailable to stakeholders. In this 1 hr workshop we will introduce you to eDNA, get you sampling eDNA from water, and have you analyse and interpret real DNA sequence data collected from Bibra Lake.

Connecting With Nature to Improve Management of Wetlands

Connecting with nature refers to how we relate to and experience nature. Our human history remains intrinsically tied to nature, yet nature-based philosophies developed by philosopher over the last 2000 years initially separate human beings from non-human beings. It is only since the emergence of science that nature-based philosophies that place humans within nature have re-emerged in human philosophical discussions. Such discussions are particularly important as human activities continue to threaten the existence of species and processes of nature. There are therefore increasing calls for us human beings to re-assess our relationships with nature.
This workshop will provide participants with an overview of the history and current nature-based philosophies and provide them with information for them to assess their own level of nature connectedness based on this information. The context will be by considering the relationships participants have with the ecology of wetlands. Developing such self-realization about our own nature-based philosophy can be used to improve how we relate to nature and therefore serve the needs of nature better.

Workshops

Painting A Picture of Wetlands Around Woogenellup

I have been observing these wetlands over a 12 year period and replicating the wonders of what I see upon the painted surface. Seasonal and yearly variation affects water levels, foliage and wildlife visiting the area. With every visit I make to the site there is always something new to see and learn. Artworks reflecting the beauty and harshness of the environment - with increasing awareness of the fragile life forms as landscape transforms from apparently barren when dry to teeming with life with rains.
Presenting a selection of artworks representing some of the variation observed. Foliage, surface, water reflection, seen close up or from a distance.
I have a small selection of unsold artworks of the wetlands to exhibit, but can paint additional paintings to be exhibited at the conference. Additionally I can select some of my thousands of photos to add to the story.
This place has a way of quietening and soothing the spirit. I hope that comes through in my works. When people visit they calm. Parts of the area seem unvisited by humans. The foliage is too dense for any large animals to go there. This is a special place.

Plant Propagation Techniques


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Join us for an outstanding experience that brings together scientists, planners, community leaders, educators, natural resource managers, aboriginal elders, environmental champions, nature enthusiasts and stakeholders in the network that connects us all – Our Wetlands.