Two hundred kilometres east of Melbourne lie the Gippsland Lakes at Marlay Point – a vast wetland area that acts as a stop-off point for hundreds of migratory bird species. For hundreds of years birds have sought refuge at the lakes. But over the past 50 years the waters of the Gippsland Lakes have undergone some dramatic changes. We’ve teamed up with local partners to find out what’s going on and come up with new ways to manage this crucial ecosystem. Scroll down to hear what some of them have to say.
There’s no doubting the importance of the Gippsland Lakes to international bird populations. Little terns, Latham’s snipe and the majestic white-bellied sea eagle are just a few of the vulnerable species that can be found in the region. The precious reed beds also provide a home to dozens of smaller birds like the stunning, but hard to spot, Golden-headed Cisticola.
And it’s not just birds that inhabit the area. Golden Bell and Growling Grass Frogs can be heard in the wetlands, alongside the hundreds of other animal species that form a part of this complex ecosystem.
The landscape between the Avon and Latrobe Rivers has been changing for over half a century from a freshwater to a salt estuarine system. This is changing the nature of land use and the diversity of wildlife that it can support.
As the salinity of the area increases, the make-up of vegetation changes. That has a massive impact upon all the life in the region, including people. The local community relies on the land to provide food and income, which is why farmers have been amongst the first people to call for something to be done about the shifting nature of the Gippsland Lakes.
When we identified the lakes as a priority landscape for restoration the first job on our list was to get more people involved – we simply can’t run projects of this enormous scale on our own. Luckily there was a huge amount of local enthusiasm, so pretty quickly we had 10 landholders, 8 organisations and 8 local schools on board.
After many hours of meetings and detailed proposals we secured funding from the Victorian Government’s Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund. That’s when the real work started. As a taster of what we’ve achieved so far:
Five hundred and fifty hectares is a lot of wetland. But that’s still only 60% of the target area so there’s more to do. Fortunately there’s more momentum behind the project than ever before so, along with our partners, we’re confident that we can tick of that final 40% in the near future.
If you’d like to stay up-to-date with the latest news from the Gippsland Lakes – and the rest of our landscape projects – please add your name to our email list or follow us on social media. And if you’re passionate about wetlands and want to get more involved with the project please get in touch.