A NEW environmental project that aims to restore drained wetlands to their natural state is taking shape.
Cross-border environmental group the Glenelg Nature Trust has received federal government funding to carry out the project in the south-west of Victoria and the south-east of South Australia and is hoping to hear from landowners interested in having their wetland areas restored.
Project co-ordinator Lachlan Farrington said since European settlement, wetlands across the region had dramatically reduced.
“In the south-east of South Australia, only approximately six per cent of the original wetlands remain, while in south-west Victoria, about 40 per cent remain,” he said.
“The reduction is a result of development, clearing and drainage for a whole range of purposes, including agriculture.”
Mr Farrington said the region was a hotspot for wetland biodiversity in southern Australia, with many important or threatened plants, wildlife and habitats occurring throughout the formerly extensive wetlands of the region.
“As the wetlands reduced, so did the occurrence of plants and animals, with frogs being the most notable.
“Having water in the landscape in turn brings those plants and animals back, and brings about bio-diversity.
“Wetlands are also a crucial component of the water and nutrient cycle in a catchment,” he said.
Mr Farrington said some wetlands provide the opportunity to achieve spectacular restoration of habitat in a relatively short space of time.
“Restoration times vary case by case and depends on the size of the drainage system that was put in place.
“Sometimes it can be as simple as putting sandbags in the drain, or there is the option to do something like they have around Lake Condah, with a series of gates and other structures.”
Mr Farrington said the project will run for the next five years and would involve an extensive consultation process with any landowners who participate.
“The longest part of the project will be looking at what the landowners want to do.
“We don’t want to go in and flood out neighbouring paddocks, we need to work with the landowners to tailor the restoration to their needs and expectations,” he said.
Mr Farrington encouraged any landowners in the region who have drained wetland areas on their land, and who are interested in having them restored, to visit the group’s website www.natureglenelg.org.au for further information.