26 September 2023

DPE takes to floodplains’ wildlife

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The State’s swollen floodplains are alive with aquatic critters and the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) is shining a spotlight on what kinds of creatures call them home.

Chief Knowledge Officer at DPE Water, Mitchell Isaacs said the State-first research project was looking at wildlife living in 20 floodplain pools across the Northern Murray Darling Basin to provide a clearer snapshot of what’s happening in the waters.

“It could be years before we see this amount of water in the Basin again,” Mr Isaacs said, “so it makes sense to get our best and brightest experts sampling these pools for environmental DNA – the building block of life – to inform the way we manage water in the region.”

“Floodplains are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet,” he said.

“They provide a spawning ground for fish and are critical areas of rest and foraging for birds.

“When you have healthy floodplains, you have healthy wildlife habitats.”

Mr Isaacs said collecting samples of eDNA from lagoons, waterholes and billabongs provided a lot of information about the creatures that live there, “but more importantly it tells us a lot about water quality and how it impacts these ecosystems”.

He said this information would be critical in guiding future delivery of DPE’s floodplain harvesting policy and water sharing plans, enabling it to make necessary adjustments to get the balance right.

Mr Isaacs said an early finding of the research was an explosion in the population of Golden Perch, a freshwater fish of cultural and social significance to First Nations peoples in the region.

“The Golden Perch is one of the largest aquatic predators in the Murray Darling Basin so it’s presence in the pools indicates a productive habitat and a strong connection with floodplain flows,” the Chief Knowledge Officer said.

“Fauna richness appears to be closely linked to the size of the floodplain pool and its level of connectivity to the floodplain itself,” he said.

“It’s very early days, but we’re hoping to do more work on this over the coming 12 months.”

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