Environmental water gives declining wildlife much needed help

Posted 12 January 2017

Waterbirds at sunsetEnvironmental water has played a “critical role” in stemming the decline of waterbird populations in Victoria, a new report has found.

The Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) report, titled Reflections: Environmental watering in Victoria 2015-16, stated that 972GL of environmental water was delivered to 73 wetlands and 73 river reaches.

“The watering provided a mosaic of habitat in what was (in the north and west of the state) an otherwise extremely dry landscape,” the report stated.

“As intended, birds flocked to the sites to feed and breed. Many rare and threatened species were observed, including three egret species (great, intermediate and little), and the very shy and endangered Australasian bittern.”

The VEWH report comes after a study of Eastern Australia found the total breeding index (all waterbird species combined) was the lowest on record in 2014, and well below the long-term average.

BirdLife Australia CEO Paul Sullivan said environmental watering was likely to be the key to survival in drought.  

“Environmental watering is critical for birds in dry times. It ensures that birds have somewhere to go for food, nesting and raising young,” he said.

“With the flow of so many rivers now regulated with dams and weirs, and with so much water extracted from the streamflow, many river wetlands are now almost never filled, leading to a huge loss of biodiversity.”

VEWH Chairperson Denis Flett said the report showed the state was benefitting from a successful history of environmental watering.

“Not only have we seen great benefits of environmental watering on waterbird populations throughout Victoria, environmental watering has also protected and re-established threatened species, re-invigorated declining rivers and creeks, and safeguarded and boosted internationally important wetlands,” he said.