, Volume 591, Issue 1, pp 147–164 | Cite as

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

  • M. N. Lyons
  • S. A. Halse
  • N. Gibson
  • D. J. Cale
  • J. A. K. Lane
  • C. D. Walker
  • D. A. Mickle
  • R. H. Froend
Salt Lakes


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.


Biodiversity Vegetation health Aquatic invertebrates Waterbirds Groundwater Salinization Landscape position 



A. Clarke, B. Franke, R. Gurner, G. Ogden, G. Pearson, M. Pennifold, K. Sutcliffe and Y. Winchcombe variously assisted with field work and data analysis. K. Wallace provided comments on an ealier draft and N. Huang assisted in preparing the figures. Funding was provided through the Western Australian State Salinity Strategy.


  1. Abrol, I. P., J. S. P. Yadav & F. I. Massoud, 1988. Salt-affected soils and their management., FAO Soils Bulletin 39. Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations, Rome.Google Scholar
  2. Anon, 2003. Australian Yearbook 2003. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.Google Scholar
  3. Beard, J. S., 1990. Plant Life of Western Australia. Kangaroo Press, Sydney.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, D. T. & R. H. Froend, 1990. Mortality and growth of tree species under stress at Lake Toolibin in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 72: 63–66.Google Scholar
  5. Bettenay, E., A. V. Blackmore & F. J. Hingston, 1964. Aspects of the hydrological cycle and related salinity in the Belka Valley, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Soil Research 2: 187–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blinn, D. W. & P. C. E. Bailey, 2001. Land-use influence on stream water quality and diatom communities in Victoria, Australia: A response to secondary salinization. Hydrobiologia 466: 231–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blinn, D. W., S. A. Halse, A. M. Pinder, R. J. Shiel & J. M. McRae, 2004. Diatom and micro-invertebrate communities and environmental determinants in the Western Australia wheatbelt: a response to salinization. Hydrobiologia 528: 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Briggs, S. V. & N. Taws, 2003. Impacts of salinity on biodiversity—clear understanding or muddy confusion? Australian Journal of Botany 51: 609–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bureau of Meteorology, 2004. Australian Monthly Rainfall. Bureau of Meteorology, Canberra (available on CD).Google Scholar
  10. Cale, D. J., S. A. Halse & C. D. Walker, 2004. Wetland monitoring in the Wheatbelt of south-west Western Australia: Site descriptions, waterbird, aquatic invertebrate and groundwater data. Conservation Science Western Australia 5: 20–135.Google Scholar
  11. Clarke, C. J., R. J. George, R. W. Bell & T. J. Hatton, 2002. Dryland salinity in south-western Australia: Its origins, remedies, and future research directions. Australian Journal of Soil Research 40: 93–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Commander, P., 1981. The hydrogeology of the Eneabba area Western Australia. Unpublished MSc Thesis, University of Western Australia, Perth.Google Scholar
  13. Cramer, V. A. & R. J. Hobbs, 2002. Ecological consequences of altered hydrological regimes in fragmented ecosystems in southern Australia: Impacts and possible management strategies. Australian Ecology 27: 546–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis, J. A., S. A. Halse & R. H. Froend, 2001. Factors influencing biodiversity in coastal plain wetlands of southwestern Australia. In Gopal, B., W. J. Junk & J. A. Davis (eds), Biodiversity in Wetlands: Assessment, Function and Conservation. Backhuys, Leiden, 89–100.Google Scholar
  15. Eldridge, S. R., P. J. Thorburn, K. L. McEwan & T. J. Hatton, 1993. Health and structure of Eucalyptus communities on Chowilla and Monoman Isalnds of the River Murray Floodplain, South Australia. Divisional Report 93/3. CSIRO Divison of Water Resources, Canberra.Google Scholar
  16. Froend, R. H. & A. J. McComb, 1991. An account of the decline of Lake Towerrinning, a wheatbelt wetland. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 73: 123–128.Google Scholar
  17. Froend, R. H. & P. G. van der Moezel, 1994. The impact of prolonged flooding on the vegetation of Coomalbidgup Swamp, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 77: 15–22.Google Scholar
  18. Garcia, A., 1999. Charophyte flora of south-eastern South Australia and south-western Victoria, Australia: Systematics, distribution and ecology. Australian Journal of Botany 47: 407–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. George, R. J., D. J. McFarlane & R. J. Speed, 1995. The consequences of a changing hydrologic environment for native vegetation in southwestern Australia. In Saunders, D. A., J. L. Craig & E. M. Mattiske (eds), Nature Conservation 4: The Role of Networks. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney, 9–22.Google Scholar
  20. George, R. J., C. J. Clarke & T. J. Hatton, 2002. Computer modelled groundwater response to recharge management for dryland salinity control in Western Australia. Advances in Environmental Monitoring and Modelling 2: 3–35.Google Scholar
  21. Gibson, N., G. J. Keighery, M. N. Lyons & A. Webb, 2004a. The terrestrial flora and vegetation of the Western Australian wheatbelt. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 67: 139–202.Google Scholar
  22. Gibson, N., G. J. Keighery & J. A. K. Lane, 2004b. Five years of monitoring of the Lake Muir-Unicup wetland system, south-western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 87: 29–33.Google Scholar
  23. Government of Western Australia, 1996. Western Australian Salinity Action Plan. Government of Western Australia, Perth.Google Scholar
  24. Grimes, R. J., 1978. Crown assessment of natural spotted gum (Eucalyptus maculata) ironbark (E. fibrosa, E. drepanophylla) forest. Technical Paper No. 7. Queensland Forest Service, Brisbane.Google Scholar
  25. Halse, S. A., 1981. Faunal assemblages of some saline lakes near Marchagee, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 32: 133–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Halse, S. A., 1987. Probable effect of increased salinity on the waterbirds of Lake Toolibin. Technical Report 15. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.Google Scholar
  27. Halse, S. A., G. B. Pearson & S. Patrick, 1993a. Vegetation of depth-gauged wetlands in nature reserves of south-west Western Australia. Technical Report 30. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.Google Scholar
  28. Halse, S. A., M. R. Williams, R. P. Jaensch & J. A. K. Lane, 1993b. Wetland characteristics and waterbird use of wetlands in south-western Australia. Wildlife Research 20: 103–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Halse, S. A., G. B. Pearson, R. M. Vervest & F. H. Yung, 1995. Annual waterfowl counts in south-west Western Australia—1991/92. CALMScience 2: 1–24.Google Scholar
  30. Halse, S. A., D. J. Cale, E. J. Jasinska & R. J. Shiel, 2002. Monitoring change in aquatic invertebrate biodiversity: sample size, faunal elements and analytical methods. Aquatic Ecology 36: 395–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Halse, S. A., J. K. Ruprecht & A. M. Pinder, 2003. Salinization and prospects for biodiversity in rivers and wetlands of south-west Western Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 51: 673–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Halse, S. A., M. N. Lyons, A. M. Pinder & R. J. Shiel, 2004. Biodiversity patterns and their conservation in wetlands of the Western Australian Wheatbelt. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 67: 337–364.Google Scholar
  33. Hart, B. T., P. Bailey, R. Edwards, K. Hortle, K. James, A. McMahon, C. Meredith & K. Swadling, 1991. A review of the salt sensitivity of the Australian freshwater biota. Hydrobiologia 210: 105–144.Google Scholar
  34. Jaensch, R. P., R. M. Vervest & M. J. Hewish, 1988. Waterbirds in nature reserves of south-western Australia 1981–1985: Reserve accounts. Report 30. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  35. Kratz, T. K., K. E. Webster, C. J Bowser, J. J. Magnuson & B. J. Benson, 1997. The influence of landscape position on lakes in northern Wisconsin. Freshwater Biology 37: 209–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lane, J. A. K. & D. R. Munro, 1982. 1981 review of rainfall and wetlands in the south-west of Western Australia. Report 56. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Perth.Google Scholar
  37. Lane J., R. Jaensch & R. Lynch, 1996. Western Australia. In Blackley R., S. Usback & K. Langford (eds), A Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia, 2nd edn. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra, 759–843.Google Scholar
  38. Lewis, F., 1998. Modelling direct episodic recharge in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. Resource Management Technical Report 168. Department of Agriculture, Perth.Google Scholar
  39. Lymbery, A. J., R. G. Doupe & N. E. Pettit, 2003. Effects of salinization on riparian plant communities in experimental catchments on the Collie River, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 51: 667–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lyons, M. N., N. Gibson, G. J. Keighery & S. D. Lyons, 2004. Wetland flora and vegetation of the Western Australian Wheatbelt. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 67: 39–90.Google Scholar
  41. McFarlane, D. J. & R. J. George, 1992. Factors affecting dryland salinity in two wheatbelt catchments in Western Australia. Australian Journal of Soil Research 30: 85–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McFarlane, D. J., R. J. George & P. A. Caccetta, 2004. The extent and potential area of salt-affected land in Western Australia estimated using remote sensing, digital terrain models. In Dogramaci, S. & A. Waterhouse (eds), Engineering Salinity Solutions, 1st National Salinity Engineering Conference 2004. Conference Proceedings. Insitute of Engineers, Australia, 55–60.Google Scholar
  43. McKenzie, N. L., A. H. Burbidge & J. K. Rolfe, 2003. Effect of salinity on small, ground-dwelling animals in the Western Australian wheatbelt. Australian Journal of Botany 51: 725–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Metzling, L., T. Doeg & W. O’Connor, 1995. The impact of salinization and sedimentation on aquatic biota. In Bradstock, R. A., T. D. Auld, R. T. Kingsford, D. Lunney & D. P. Siversten (eds), Conserving Biodiversity: Threats and Solutions. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney, 126–136.Google Scholar
  45. Mulcahy, M. J., 1978. Salinization in the southwest of Western Australia. Search 9: 269–272.Google Scholar
  46. Myers, N., R. A. Mittermeier, C. G. Mittermeier, G. A. B. da Foncesa & J. Kents, 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853–858.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. NARWC, 1987. The Status and Future of Lake Toolibin as a Wildlife Reserve. Water Authority of Western Australia, Perth.Google Scholar
  48. Nielsen, D. L., M. A. Brock, G. N. Rees & D. S. Baldwin, 2003. Effects of increasing salinity on freshwater ecosystems in Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 51: 655–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nielson, D. L., M. A. Brock, K. Crossle, K. Harris, M. Healey & J. Jarosinski, 2004. The effects of salinity on aquatic plant germination and zooplankton hatching from two wetland sediments. Freshwater Biology 48: 2214–2223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pinder, A. M., S. A. Halse, J. M. McRae, & R. J. Shiel, 2004. Aquatic invertebrate assemblages of wetlands and rivers in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 67: 7–37.Google Scholar
  51. Pinder, A. M, S. A. Halse, J. M. McRae & R. J. Shiel, 2005. Occurrence of aquatic invertebrates of the wheatbelt region of Western Australia in relation to salinity. Hydrobiologia 543: 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Robertson, D. & T. Massenbauer, 2005. Applying hydrological thresholds to wetland management for waterbirds, using bathymetric surveys and GIS. In Zerger, A. & R. M. Argent (eds), MODSIM 2005 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, December 2005, pp. 2407–2413. ISBN: 0-9758400-2-9.
  53. Ruprecht, J. R. & N. J. Schofield, 1991. Effects of partial deforestation on hydrology and salinity in high salt storage landscapes. I. Extensive block clearing. Journal of Hydrology 129: 19–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sanders, A., 1991. Oral histories documenting changes in Wheatbelt wetlands. Occasional Paper 2/91. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.Google Scholar
  55. Segers, H. & R. J. Shiel, 2003. Microfaunal diversity in a biodiversity hotspot: New rotifers from Western Australia. Zoological Studies 42: 516–521.Google Scholar
  56. Skinner, R., F. Sheldon & K. F. Walker, 2001. Propagules in dry wetland sediments as indicators of ecological health: effects of salinity. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 17: 191–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. StatSoft, 2001. STATISTICA System Reference. Statsoft, Tulsa, Oklahoma.Google Scholar
  58. Stelfox, L., 2004. Assessment of potential contamination from the Moore River. Salinity and Land Use Impact Series Report SLUI33. Department of Environment, Perth.Google Scholar
  59. Stone, C., T. Wardlaw, R. Floyd, A. Carnegie, R. Wylie & D. de Little, 2003. Harmonisation of methods for the assessment and reporting of forest health in Australia—a starting point. Australian Forestry 66: 233–245.Google Scholar
  60. Teakle, L. J. H. & G. H. Burvill, 1938. The movement of soluble salts in soils under light rainfall conditions. Journal of Agriculture of Western Australia 15: 218–245.Google Scholar
  61. Thomsen, J. B., 1999. Looking for hotspots. World Conservation 99: 6–7.Google Scholar
  62. Walters, C., 1986. Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources. MacMillan, New York.Google Scholar
  63. Webster, K. E., P. A. Soranno, S. B. Baines, T. K. Kratz, C. J. Bowser, P. J. Dillon, P. Campbell, E. J. Fee & R. E Hecky, 2000. Structuring features of lake districts: Landscape controls on lake chemical responses to drought. Freshwater Biology 43: 499–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Williams, W. D., 1987. Salinization of rivers and streams: An important environmental hazard. Ambio 16: 180–185.Google Scholar
  65. Williams, W. D., 1999. Salinization: a major threat to water resources in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Lakes & Reservoirs: Research and Management 4: 85–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wood, W. E., 1924. Increase of salt in soil and streams following the destruction of native vegetation. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 10: 35–48.Google Scholar
  67. Yesertener, C., D. P. Commander & P. D. Muirden, 2000. Groundwater and surface water outflow from the Yarra Yarra Lakes, Western Australia. In Hydro 2000, Interactive Hydrology, 3rd International Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium. Institute of Engineers, Australia, Perth, 323–328.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. N. Lyons
    • 1
  • S. A. Halse
    • 1
  • N. Gibson
    • 1
  • D. J. Cale
    • 1
  • J. A. K. Lane
    • 2
  • C. D. Walker
    • 3
  • D. A. Mickle
    • 1
  • R. H. Froend
    • 4
  1. 1.Science DivisionDepartment of Environment and ConservationWannerooAustralia
  2. 2.Science DivisionDepartment of Environment and ConservationBusseltonAustralia
  3. 3.GEO & HYDRO Environmental ManagementRoleystoneAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Ecosystem ManagementEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia

Personalised recommendations