Surveys have commenced across the Murray-Darling Basin for the Vegetation Theme in the Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research project  (MDB EWKR). A variety of wetland and floodplain habitats are being surveyed over autumn, including woodlands, shrublands and wetlands.

Wetland and floodplain plants are critical components of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, supplying energy to support food webs, providing habitat and dispersal corridors for fauna, and contributing to other ecosystem services such as nutrient and carbon cycling, water and sediment oxygenation.  The plants also have intrinsic biodiversity, aesthetic, cultural and recreational values.   To assist water managers in achieving Basin Plan objectives, the MDB EWKR Vegetation Theme is investigating the drivers of sustainable populations and diverse communities of water-dependent vegetation.  This information will be used to understand how different water flows promote, sustain and support our amazing riparian plants.

Research components:

Within the Vegetation Theme there are a number of research components including field site assessments. The field site assessment component seeks to address how both existing understorey and seedbank responses differ between structural vegetation classes, flooding regime and location. We are aiming to understand relationships between flow drivers, non-flow drivers (e.g. climate, structure) and vegetation response to better understand the flow components / regimes required for a particular vegetation response.

Field sampling will involve a stratified design that incorporates different vegetation structural classes (e.g. non-woody wetlands, inland shrublands, inland woodlands) and different, average, flood return intervals (e.g. annual or near-annual inundation, 1 in 3, 1 in 3-5, 1 in 5-10). Vegetation trait responses will include compositional, structural and process related metrics at different levels of ecological organisation (e.g. species and community). Field sites are distributed across four locations within the Murray-Darling Basin: Narran Lakes, Macquarie Marshes, Mid-Murray (Barmah-Millewa Forests) and the Lower Murray (Lindsay, Mulcra, Wallpolla Island, Chowilla Floodplain, south-west NSW floodplain). Sites were assessed this autumn 2017 and a second round of surveys will take place in autumn 2018.

Surveys underway:

Surveys began in Barmah-Millewa Forest and Lower Murray in early autumn with staff from both Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre’s Wodonga and Mildura labs collaborating to undertake the work in challenging conditions!   The photo above is of Fiona Freestone taking hemispherical photos amongst dense Native Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza acanthocarpa), Nampoo Station, in NSW Lower Murray (photo by R. Durant, MDFRC, 2017).  We thought you might enjoy seeing exactly what this work entails and the lengths (pardon the pun!) the team will go to in order to get those all important measurements!

This great work is funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

Flags down and we’re off and racing! Cherie Campbell (MDFRC) and Fiona Freestone (MDFRC) set the first peg for the MDB EWKR vegetation surveys, Hut Luke, Barmah Forest (R. Durant, MDFRC, 2017).


Fiona Freestone (MDFRC) wading out into a lagoon on Wingillie Station, NSW Lower Murray (R. Durant, MDFRC, 2017)


Point-intercept surveys and soil collection in an inundated wetland, Millewa Forest, Mid-Murray (F. Freestone, MDFRC, 2017).


Cherie Campbell (MDFRC) filling in data sheets in an inundated wetland, Millewa Forest, Mid-Murray (F. Freestone, MDFRC, 2017).


Spot the scientist!  Rebecca Durant battling with a dense reed swamp, Barmah Forest, Mid-Murray (F. Freestone, MDFRC, 2017).

MDFRC staff surveying a Moira Grass plain at Hut Lake, Barmah Forest. (Photo MDFRC 2017)

MDFRC staff surveying River Red Gum Forest at Barmah Forest (Photo MDFRC 2017)

Many thanks to Keith Ward (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority) for his invaluable local plant knowledge!  Surveys will also be undertaken within the Lower Murray, Macquarie Marshes and Narran Lakes.

For more information, contact:

Cherie Campbell (Vegetation Theme Coordinator)
Phone: 03 5051 4063