26 September 2023

Flowing Murray a boost for vegetation

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The Department of Environment and Water has revealed that todays’ current River Murray flows into South Australia are exceeding 50,000 megalitres per day for the first time since December 2016.

Manager of Environmental Water at the Department, Tony Herbert said the additional water was expected to generate widespread improvements in the condition of native vegetation in temporary wetlands and on the floodplains.

“Approximately 3,900 hectares of river red gums are inundated in total when flows to South Australia reach 50,000 megalitres per day,” Mr Herbert said.

“This is about 1,800 hectares more than last year when river levels reached 35,000 megalitres a day, so these river red gums are being inundated for the first time since 2016.”

He said the trees typically needed water every one-to-four years on average to maintain condition.

“Following inundation, river red gums significantly increase their rate of growth and there’s an increase in leaf, flower and seed production,” Mr Herbert said.

“This is benefitting the whole ecosystem as native fauna rely on the resources that plants provide and the prey they support.”

He said that as flows receded, inundated areas would drain back to the river channel bringing an increase in resources like carbon, nutrients, zooplankton and phytoplankton.

“This increase in organic material provides energy for the aquatic food web,” he said.

“Widespread under-storey plant growth will occur as water levels recede from temporary wetlands and floodplain areas inundated by the high flow,” Mr Herbert said.

In addition, 500 hectares of black box trees (300 more than last year) and 1,500 hectares of lignum had also been inundated thanks to the additional water.

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