The impacts of bushfire events on Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site will be investigated by scientists to help build resilience and protect them into the future.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has been working to secure funding for an environmental audit of the Gippsland Lakes for several years and said the one-year $350,000 research project would help government protect the unique wetlands.
“The Gippsland Lakes have a rich array of biodiversity that needs to be protected. Our lagoons are home to waterbirds, frogs and fish and one of only two known resident populations of Burrunan dolphin,” Mr Chester said.
“The program will draw on the expertise from a range of stakeholders, including the CSIRO, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, key Victorian Government agencies, and West Gippsland and East Gippsland Catchment Management Authorities, allowing us to assess the vulnerability and sensitivity of the wetlands.
“Our beautiful waterways are also enjoyed by residents and tourists year-round, helping to support our region’s economy and it is vital we protect them.”
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the audit would assess the damage from the black summer bushfires.
“More than a third of some parts of the catchment were devastated in the black summer bushfires, with detrimental impacts on the water quality and aquatic habitat in the eastern systems which flow into the lakes,” Minister Ley said.
“It is important that we learn from past events and use this knowledge to inform our bushfire recovery and catchment restoration work, and our longer term actions to build resilience to future bushfires and climate-induced events.
“This project will become a blueprint for similar future projects in other bushfire-affected coastal catchments, and for incorporating traditional knowledge and western science into tailored climate adaptation programs.”
The site, which has been Ramsar listed since 1982, is the largest estuarine lagoon system in Australia and covers over 60,000 hectares. The coastal lagoons support a number of threatened species, including the Growling Grass Frog, Australian Grayling and Australasian Bittern, and more than 20,000 waterbirds are frequent visitors to the site.
The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site project is part of the $14 million investment into the forests and coastal ecosystems of East Gippsland bushfire region from the Australian Government’s $200 million Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Program.
More information on bushfire recovery in East Gippsland can be found at http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery/regional-delivery-program/east-gippsland