Lake Muir- Unicup Wetland System
Wetland Challenges and Opportunities in the Lake Muir-Unicup Wetlands System and
Upper Kent River catchments
Presenter: Geoff Evans, Convenor, Denmark Environment Centre
Lake Muir Unicup Wetlands System – video 4.35
Two community groups, Green Skills and Great Walk Network held a field day visiting sites within the Lake Muir Unicup Wetlands System. These unique wetlands are in the SW of WA and form part of the living lakes of Gondwana link. They are listed under the Ramsar wetlands convention. This area is special, with large numbers of species and as an important moulting site for Australian shelducks with up to 10,000 shelducks. It is also a refugee in dry years.
There are extensive peat-based wetlands containing large areas of sedgelands, dense beds of reeds and rushes, which are important for various bird species. It is a very important wetland for conservation of the endangered Australasian bittern. The Lake Muir Unicup Wetlands system support a wide variety of habitats providing for migratory birds and other wildlife.
The group then visited Lake Unicup where they discovered what made these wetlands so special as well as its history, management and conservation. The Lake Muir Unicup wetlands are internationally significant and our obligations under the Ramsar treaty are to care for, maintain and stop it from degrading, which is where revegetation comes in. The revegetation in the upper part of the catchment help reduce the saline recharge into the groundwater which hopefully flows on into and protects the wetlands further on downstream.
The Lake Muir wetlands provide habitat for more than 20,000 wetlands birds over ten wader species protected under international migratory shorebird agreements, six of the eight endemic southwest freshwater fish species, over 600 species of native plants and 24 species of priority flora and fauna. Including: Balston’s pygmy perch, Muir’s corella, forest red tailed black cockatoo, chuditch, numbat and quokka, all needing special conservation management.
Lake Muir wetlands are amazing, incredibly scenic, and diverse, unbelievably different, every single one is a different lake, you go from hypersaline to fresh and they are naturally occurring, and the species richness is fantastic the bird life is amazing, from rare species to common species and they are a joy to be around.
The Lake Muir Unicup Wetlands face ongoing management challenges, these include the impacts of feral animals including foxes, cats, dear, pigs and wild horses. Loss of bushland vegetation on adjoining farms, the need for ecologically sensitive fire management, the spread of dieback disease. The Lake Muir wetlands are a wonderful natural heritage,
greater public awareness and government funding are needed to help conserve this area in the face of climate change and an uncertain future.
Tootanellup Ecorestoration video 3.53.
One of the exciting new opportunities is the Tootanellup Ecorestoration project being facilitated by Green Skills.
Upper Kent River Catchment, Boggy Lake and finally wetlands as a source of freshwater and actions to stop their loss and protection video 6.14.
Boggy Lake This is a wonderful little wetland, Boggy Lake. While Boggy Lake is connected to a local drainage system and a series of other wetlands, it is also connected in a major way to a broader macro corridor from near the Stirling Ranges all the way to the Walpole Wilderness. The vegetation and reed banks seen here has all the hallmarks for habitat of the endangered Australasian Bittern.
As far as we can tell, there may be only 150 individuals left in the SW and we cannot afford to lose them or their potential habitat areas.
The additional value of Boggy Lake is its location next to Green Skills’ property Tootanellup, also a proposed base for undertaking surveys of Boggy Lake and surrounding wetlands. The aerial footage clearly shows the extent of the wetlands.
Upper Kent River Catchment
Close to the Lake Muir wetlands is a suite of special lakes and swamps in the Upper Kent River catchment. While facing similar challenges, community groups under the Gondwana Link banner including BirdLife WA, and the Denmark Environment Centre, are progressing new opportunities for wetland conservation and protection. A renewed focus on twenty-four woodlands, wetlands, peat swamps, swamplands and bushland properties originally acquired by the Water and Rivers Commission for catchment protection and rehabilitation in the 1990’s. These properties are emerging as an important macro corridor and the potential focus for Australasian Bittern conservation in the South West with active conservation projects underway.
The Denmark Environment Centre was informed late last year that as the current land holder, Department of Water & Environmental Regulation (DWER) hold freehold land in the upper Kent River Catchment. DWER is currently considering options for these 24 properties with a total area of 7,146 hectares. The Upper Kent Catchment is still a declared water catchment area and clearing controls remain in place.
This is an excellent opportunity to secure these properties in the conservation estate.
The 24 properties will provide important steppingstones in the Gondwana Link Project. Green Skills is already involved in securing other properties in this unbroken chain of bush,
through the Tootanellup Area Fencing Projects, Gondwana Link, Upper Kent Wetland Suite, which includes these DWER properties.
The relative isolation from population centres and limited historical use of the properties allows for some conservation values to be confidently inferred. Declared Rare flora and priority species are known to occur in country with similar soil types and dominant species mix. Given the area would previously have been the home range of threatened fauna species, this includes the Western Ringtail Possum, Red-tailed black cockatoos and Australasian Bittern. The lack of data confirming the presence of rare flora and threatened fauna reflects not having been surveyed.
I have good news about the progress made in this area. Contact was made with DWER and the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions in Perth and regional centres. These actions resulted in the confirmation that the 24 blocks will be assessed for their conservation values and will result in the transfer of titles to DBCA.
I have visited some of the 24 blocks, including: south of the Muir Highway, Turpin Rd and Perillup Rd and north of the Muir Highway, Boggy Lake, Tootanellup and Tuckers Road. There is a real concern for these blocks when adjoining property owners are clearing these fragile ecosystems.
Lake Jasper and the Gingilup-Jasper Wetland System
And, a final good news story, the mining lease adjacent to Lake Jasper and within the Gingilup-Jasper wetland system has been relinquished on 1st December 2020. The Premier and Minister for the Environment had given a commitment to reinstate the excised area back to D’Entrecasteaux National Park. I wrote to them, knowing how long the process of returning the wetland back to national park would take and proposed that the government proclaim the area under Section 19 of the Mining Act, which precludes any further mining applications. A telephone conversation with the Ministers office confirmed the action taken. Confirmation of the above was received in writing from the Premier. Effectively, ending a campaign of over thirty years.
Lake Muir-Unicup Wetland System