A Victorian Government pilot monitoring project on the banks of the Campaspe River at Strathallan and Rochester is finding out how healthy river flows can bring back vegetation and even resurrect threatened species, when riverbanks are protected from grazing.
There are lots of things that impact on the health of our rivers and wetlands, and it may be surprising to learn that land-based animals are high on the list.
Obviously things like cow manure can have a direct impact on water quality, especially given cows poo five times more when they are standing in water than when they are standing on land.
However, the other end of the digestive process can also have a big impact, and it’s not just cows.
Riverbank grazing by cattle, sheep, rabbits and native animals like kangaroos can affect the quality of water and can lead to a lot of native plants and flowers almost disappearing.
Before Christmas, the North Central Catchment Management Authority, Arthur Rylah Institute and a Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation works crew built two 36sqm exclusion plots on the banks of the Campaspe River to measure the impact of healthy river flows on bank vegetation.
‘‘We met with landholders and found a couple of spots, one on a public reserve and one that is grazed by cattle,’’ North Central CMA environmental water manager Louissa Rogers said.
‘‘Putting the exclusion plots up will allow us to see the impacts our healthy river flows can have on vegetation in specific areas with other variables excluded, especially when we keep animals out,’’ Ms Rogers said.
And the new project is already producing results, with confirmation of the discovery of the threatened small scurf-pea in the plot.
‘‘This is a small little plant, but this discovery is big news,’’ Ms Rogers said.
‘‘It shows us what our healthy river flows can achieve.
‘‘It also shows us that working with local communities, local traditional owners and other government authorities can bring great results.
‘‘Riverbank vegetation is an important habitat for birds and insects and can help filter run-off and stop a lot of nasties entering the river.’’
Ms Rogers said she and her team would continue to monitor the site and hoped more threatened plants would be discovered.