Fabulous flowering season on the Murray River floodplain

December 2017 has turned out to be the best flowering season yet for river red gums and black box on the Murray River floodplain! The trees seem to have returned to the ‘normal’ pattern of summer flowering for red gums and for most black box, after 2016 was dominated by winter flowering for black box, and multiple flowering events for many trees. This summer almost every tree is covered in dense clusters of cream-coloured flowers, with fresh new leaves appearing. Even the creeping monkey flower (Mimula repens) has formed dense purple carpets along the edges of wetlands. The trigger was most likely the flood which peaked 12 months ago, triggering dense bud crops which are now in full flower. That means there will be high volumes of seed next summer! It’s a great Christmas present to see the floodplain trees continuing recovery from the Millenium drought and looking so good!

Posted in black box, caring for our planet, conservation, environmental flows, eucalypts, Murray-Darling Basin, native vegetation, phenological cycles, regeneration, river red gums, sustainable natural resources management | Tagged , , , ,

Urgent Warning: Escalating Threats to Survival of Planet


An urgent warning of major threats to the survival of our planet has just been published in BioScience. The paper by Ripple et al. (2017) has been endorsed by 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries (BioScience, bix125, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix125). They are deeply concerned that there has been almost no progress in addressing threats first identified 25 years ago, in the 1992 ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity’.

The threats identified included ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. Since that warning was published, the Earth’s population has increased by 35%, by 2 billion people, and the only threat which has been met is the hole in the ozone layer.

Since 1992, humanity has failed to address these environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse. Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014), and a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years. While greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 68%, temperatures have risen by 168% and CO2 emissions have risen by 62%.

Urgent changes are needed in environmental policy, human behaviour, and global inequities is still far from sufficient. These include effective nature and biodiversity reserves, halting habitat clearance, restoring native plant communities, re-introducing apex predators to restore ecological balance, control trade in threatened species, reducing food waste, shifting away from meat-based foods, reducing fertility rates, promoting green technologies and managing to achieve a sustainable human population.

The authors state that humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to ‘business as usual’. Time is running out and we all must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.

Share the Paper and spread the message (link below)!! Vote for politicians who share these goals!!


Posted in caring for our planet, climate change, conservation, ecosystem services, regeneration, sustainable natural resources management, waterways, wetlands | Tagged , , , , , ,

Cranes, Cackling Geese and Californian wetlands

During a recent visit to California, it was great to meet up with former Ducks Unlimited colleague Andy Engilis, and to re-visit two key waterbird sites in the delta of the Central Valley. Last seen in 2001, managed wetlands at Cosumnes River Conservation Preserve and the Yolo Creek By-pass Wildlife Area have matured very well. The visit in mid-autumn coincided with the first waves of over-wintering waterbirds arriving to seek respite from cooler northern temperatures. We saw large flocks of cackling geese (like a smaller version of Canada geese) weaving across the sky and groups of sandhill cranes grazing in the fields and grasslands, all within sight of downtown Sacramento.

Andy is now based at UC Davis and Curator of the amazing Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, with rows of cabinets filled with drawers of specimens, like bats, humming birds, waterbirds, even a cabinet with a lion skin, leopard skin and tiger skin in successive drawers! He teaches mammology, ornithology, icthyology and herpetology, and has inherited ‘orphan’ collections from other institutions, making the UC Davis museum collection one of the best in the US! Meeting some of his students, it seems he is an inspirational teacher, as well as being a dedicated birdwatcher. Andy combines all these interests into research projects to understand use patterns and habitat needs of birds using the managed regional wetlands. Thanks for an inspiring visit!

Posted in caring for our planet, conservation, managed wetlands, sustainable natural resources management, waterbirds, waterways, wetlands | Tagged , , , , ,

Watering Wisdom Exchanged!

Water For Nature held another successful Exchange in the South Australian Riverland this week, showcasing successful environmental watering projects and exchanging stories between all the different people who engage in this challenging space! Standout stories came from Riverland artist Liz and ‘Accidental Citizen Scientist’ Ron. Liz told of how she and fellow-artist husband Clint became involved in watering the Yarra Creek floodplain across the river from their home, after watching its sad decline in the drought. Clint became the ‘human bobcat’, digging shallow trenches and building mini-dams to make the most of the water as the floodplain turned into a wetland full of frogs, waterplants, healthy lignum and flowering black box. Ron was quietly rehabilitating after major surgery on the river bank near Nildottie until his peace was disturbed by a noisy pump transferring water into the adjacent wetland. Ron became the pump man, photopoint monitor and local advocate for the recovery project at Greenways wetland. Both stories inspired the audience and provided neat examples to use to spread the word about why environmental watering is so important. In spite of the unexpected downpours which delivered 37 mm of rain to Renmark and made the floodplain impassable for most of our planned field tours, the Water Exchange was a very successful event, with a heap of positive networking among participants

and many new friends made!

Posted in black box, caring for our planet, community engagement, ecosystem services, environmental flows, eucalypts, Murray-Darling Basin, native vegetation, rainfall, regeneration, river red gums, sustainable natural resources management, wetlands | Tagged , , , , ,

Let the Rivers Flow!

In National Water Week, with a theme of ‘water — the heart of our culture‘, the River Fellows and their friends from across the Murray-Darling Basin came to Canberra to meet with key politicians, to deliver their message that we need the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be effective and to deliver enough water to keep our rivers flowing and healthy enough to support river communities.

The River Fellows Program coordinated the Healthy Rivers Roadshows at 11 community meetings across the Murray-Darling Basin, from Dubbo and Broken Hill to Goolwa, Meningie and Adelaide. People with a range of interests and backgrounds came together to hear about the state of the Basin Plan and to show solidarity in standing up for a fair share of water for all communities, upstream and downstream. Petitions signed at these meetings were supported with more than 24,100 signatures, and these were presented to the Prime Minister.

These messages of concern and support were carried into Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 14 Canberra in National Water week. We formed small delegations with representatives from across the Basin to participate in 13 meetings with 14 politicians and 5 key advisors. The 3 key requests made were:

  • implement the Basin Plan in full, with 3200 GL of real water or real equivalent outcomes from proposed water efficiency projects which will reduce the amount of water recovered
  • undertake a judicial enquiry into recent allegations of water theft and capture of environmental water by irrigators
  • not to approve the package of efficiency projects which will reduce the amount of real water recovered until all enquiries are concluded.

This is just one step in the process, with new relationships started, information being exchanged, and ripples spreading out from all our activities in Canberra! Well done River Fellows!

Posted in caring for our planet, community engagement, environmental flows, Murray-Darling Basin, policy, sustainable natural resources management, water issues | Tagged , , , , , ,

Water flowing down the River Murray to South Australia is not wasted!

There is a convenient view by upstream communities and their political representatives that River Murray water flowing to South Australia just evaporates and is wasted. All communities should have a fair share of the limited water available, with enough left in the rivers so they can support us.

The Lower Murray Valley in SA depends on a flowing healthy working River Murray

  • 648 km from SA border to Murray Mouth
  • >3,000 km2 floodplains, 1100 wetlands in 250 complexes
  • 16 towns, 6 settlements, 8 holiday home communities, 5 towns on Lower Lakes
  • 35,000 ha irrigated horticulture in Riverland
  • landscapes, destinations and amenity for river towns, businesses, farmers, fishermen and holiday-makers
  • only has 7% of MDB area and flow volumes.

Water flowing to South Australia from upstream is not wasted, it doesn’t just evaporate

  • provides water supplies to 75% of SA communities in dry years, including Adelaide, Iron Triangle, Yorke Peninsula, Barossa, Clare, Keith
  • supports towns, communities, businesses, agriculture, tourism & State’s economy
  • keeps the River flowing to the Lower Lakes, Coorong and the sea
  • ecosystems filter water, trap sediment and nutrients, buffer floods
  • floods water floodplains and wetlands, kick-starts life-cycles in plants, waterbirds, animals, fish, frogs, yabbies.

Water flowing to the sea is not wasted

  • major component of estuarine water quality, mixing with sea water
  • provides nutrients to estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems, including key food sources for crayfish nurseries
  • allows fish passage between sea and lakes.

0406 silver lea aerial 2

Posted in caring for our planet, ecosystem services, environmental flows, floods, Murray-Darling Basin, recruitment, sustainable natural resources management, water supply, wetlands | Tagged , , , ,

Green & gold springtime in the Murray River Valley

Springtime this year in the Riverland in the South Australian Murray River Valley is green and gold, with fresh green groundcover plants and shrubs across the floodplains and golden cassia bushes lining the roads. This is the strongest flowering season for cassias in several years, forming extended golden corridors along regional roads. On the floodplains, good seasonal rains have extended the benefits of the 2016 flood, sustaining the improved condition of floodplain vegetation already noticed in 2015 and 2016. Many river red gums and black box trees are now carrying dual crops, with mature fruits crops ready to flower and to release seed in the next 2-3 months. And the pigface adds a contrasting wash of bright pink under the black box trees. Nature is on track for a colourful and healthy season!

Posted in black box, caring for our planet, eucalypts, Murray-Darling Basin, native vegetation, river red gums, seeds, sustainable natural resources management | Tagged , , , ,