, Volume 591, Issue 1, pp 147-164

Monitoring wetlands in a salinizing landscape: case studies from the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

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Abstract

Three elements of wetland biodiversity (aquatic invertebrates, waterbirds and overstorey vegetation of the wetland edge) have been monitored since 1998 at Lake Eganu and Paperbark Swamp in the Western Australian Wheatbelt to provide information about the changes occurring in wetland biodiversity in a landscape that is severely affected by dryland salinization. Changes in extent of wetland vegetation since the 1960s were examined using historical aerial photographs and waterbird use of Lake Eganu during the early 1980s was compared with recent waterbird survey results. Lake Eganu, which is within a major drainage line, started to become salinized in the mid-1960s, about 70 years after land clearing began in the catchment, and its salinity has increased an order of magnitude. The extent of wetland overstorey vegetation and the richness of freshwater aquatic invertebrates have both declined about 80%. Waterbird richness has also declined over the past 20 years, with changes in species composition. Salinization has not occurred at Paperbark Swamp, which is in a small catchment off the main drainage line, and there has been no consistent change in the biodiversity elements monitored.