Today, February 2nd, marks World Wetlands Day. It aims to raise awareness of wetland values and benefits and to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Last night, to celebrate in the red and arid centre of Central Australia, TNRM hosted an event at Simpsons Gap, just a 20 minute drive west of Alice Springs. Following a wet start to the year, Simpsons Gap has a significant amount of water running through it at the moment and that brings with it, a flush of activity.
We were joined by Aquatic Scientist, Jayne Brim Box, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Parks and Wildlife’s Community Engagement Officer, Susie Armes, renowned birder and Fauna Scientist, Alistair Stewart (DENR) and Meg Mooney of Tangentyere Council’s Land & Learning Program, all of whom were on hand to share their vast expertise and knowledge.
Attendees listening to Jen Kreusser (TNRM Arid Lands Regional Co-ordinator) introduce the World Wetlands Day event at Simpsons Gap.
Over 30 people made the drive out to celebrate and learn about how important permanent water habitats such as Simpsons Gap are. Many of the local frog species enter torpor underground waiting months or even years for good summer rains (such as those that have started 2017) to come out and breed. Fish dart through the shallow waters, feasting on macro-invertebrates or, in one instance, the carcass of a late tree frog! We saw honeyeaters and sacred kingfishers flit through the dusk air before giving way later to the night-time hunting of multiple species of bats who we learn can swim. Snakes and black-footed wallabies no doubt lurk nearby waiting for our group to disperse and their own tranquillity to return, so they may hunt or drink at the water’s edge.
Susie Armes (left), Community Engagement Officer of Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, with a few of last night’s attendees.
Simpsons Gap is just one of the waterholes that can be found throughout the West MacDonnell Ranges and it was fascinating to take a peek at some of the smaller, less celebrated species that can be found there. It’s important to remember that the desert too, needs its water refuges to thrive and survive.
Territory NRM also hosted two events in the Top End
On World Wetlands Day, Dr Greg Brown gave a fascinating show and tell presentation about the ecology of the Adelaide River floodplains at the Window on the Wetlands facility. Greg showed participants some of the interesting critters of the Top End-a keelback snake, water python and frill-neck lizard, and talked about the role of each of these species in the ecosystem. Greg has been working at the University of Sydney’s Tropical Research Ecology Facility at Fogg Dam for many years, and has a unique and in-depth understanding of the area. Thanks to Greg for a fantastic overview of wetland ecology.
On Sat 4 February, around 20 people braved the wet conditions to join Ian Morris at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve. While most of the wildlife remained hidden from view in the wet conditions, Ian talked about the values of and threats to wetlands in the NT, as well as some of significant changes to Top End wetland ecosystems over time brought about through weeds such as mimosa and olive hymenachne, and feral animals such as water buffalo, pigs and cane toads. Participants also learnt about a recent pest introduction to Fogg Dam-a few years ago, someone let their Siamese fighting fish go in the reserve. It is unknown what the impact of these introduced species on the wetland ecosystem is-but this serves as a reminder that introduced species compete with native species for food and shelter, and may also predate on native species. We can all play our role in looking after the NT special values and places, and this includes disposing of unwanted objects/pets responsibly. A big thanks to Ian for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us!