Citizen science key to monitoring trial river habitat restoration

Installing logs as part of river habitat restoration works for the Harvey River. Credit Jane Townsend / Harvey River Restoration Taskforce.

Calling citizen scientists! A unique trial to create river habitat in and around sections of the Harvey River Main Drain is under way and community members are being invited to help monitor outcomes.

Logs have been strategically placed within the drain to imitate a natural stream and more than 3,500 seedlings have been planted along the banks to create habitat and provide shade to aid in cooling water temperatures. Once established, the new river habitat is set to provide a home for native animals such as marron, Quenda, freshwater turtles, birds and water bugs.

Locals can help monitor the impact of the restoration works through a series of citizen science events that include counting and collecting data on fish and marron species, macroinvertebrate sampling and vegetation monitoring.

Murdoch University researchers monitoring aquatic life in the Harvey River. Credit Jane Townsend / Harvey River Restoration Taskforce.

Murdoch University researchers monitoring aquatic life in the Harvey River. Credit Jane Townsend / Harvey River Restoration Taskforce.

The revitalisation activities have been completed over the past few months by Harvey River Restoration Taskforce, Water Corporation and Greening Australia with considerable in-kind support from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, under the collaborative catchment-based program, Marron More than a Meal – revive our rivers.

Resources company Alcoa and its global charity the Alcoa Foundation is a major funder of the Helping the Harvey project, together with State Natural Resource Management Program, Water Corporation, and Peel-Harvey Catchment Council through the Royalties for Regions Regional Community Services Fund.

Greening Australia Project Lead Ruth Cripps said a key aspect of the trial was engaging local communities, schools, landholders and Indigenous community members in river restoration.

“We can all play a role in collecting data on plants and animals. Regular, longer-term data is pivotal in tracking changes and taking action to help nature through the tough times,” Ms Cripps said.

“Installing logs and streambank vegetation can create habitat suitable for many different species, so we’ll be inviting the local communities to help monitor the outcomes of our restoration efforts over the next year or two. Hopefully in that time we’ll already be able to see wildlife numbers increase.”

An image from above shows the logs installed within the stream.

The logs in place in the Harvey River. Credit Greening Australia.

Alcoa Corporate Affairs Manager Suellen Jerrard said helping to protect and improve key local waterways, like the Harvey, was a key focus for the company given the important environmental, economic, cultural and social role they played in the region.

“As well as providing funding, Alcoa is committed to getting our employees involved in this and similar projects. Many of our people, who live in these local communities, have already rolled up their sleeves to help with monitoring and planting efforts along the Harvey River and other major waterways in the area and we are set to continue that involvement,” Mrs Jerrard said.

Water Corporation South West Regional Manager Nicky Waite said the project was part of a move to transform drains in natural habitats.

“Our understanding of the environment has changed significantly since the early 1900s when the primary function of drains was flood mitigation,” Ms Waite said. “With the help of science, we are now looking towards more sustainable ways of managing infrastructure so that drains can be better integrated into the natural environment.”

“This trial is the first of its kind on a Water Corporation drain in regional WA and follows the transformation of several stormwater drains in Perth under the utility’s Drainage for Liveability Program. It’s a wonderful example of how we can all work together to protect, enhance and connect waterways and wetland habitats in the South West.”

The Harvey River restoration works include log installations and riverbank plantings for habitat. Credit Greening Australia.

Helping the Harvey is part of Greening Australia’s Great Southern Landscapes program, an Alcoa Foundation funded project through the Three Rivers, One Estuary initiative, and forms part of the wider collaborative partnership between Harvey River Restoration Taskforce, Water Corporation, Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and State NRM all working together under ‘Marron More Than a Meal’. Thanks to Lotterywest for their further support of the Harvey River Festival. For more information about this project, please send us an online query.