Artesian springs protection project

Queensland Government
Published: June 2019
Last edited: June 2019
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Summary

Wetland communities and artesian springs are a unique feature of semi-arid and arid Australia and have a high level of endemic flora and fauna. They are significant to the First Nation’s people, holding considerable value to the Budjiti people. The springs and wetland communities have significantly declined in condition due to over utilisation of the Great Artesian Basin, excavation for man-made dams, exotic plants, and cattle and feral animal disturbance. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Partnerships (QPWS&P) has implemented a successful domestic and feral animal control program to protect and enhance spring wetland communities with high conservation value. Targeted management actions addressed high levels of impacts of grazing, ground disturbance and reduced water quality and consumption. The approach was adopted to significantly improve the condition of the artesian springs through fencing, pest management program (mustering, culling, baiting) and monitoring program.

Classifications

Region
Oceania
Scale of implementation
Subnational
Ecosystem
Freshwater ecosystems
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Theme
Indigenous people
Invasive alien species
Land management
Protected area management planning
Science and research
Species management
Water provision and management
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Invasive species
Lack of access to long-term funding
Sustainable development goals
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge

Location

Currawinya National Park, Queensland, Australia
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Challenges

Standard landscape pest control programs fail to provide adequate protection of artesian spring wetland communities, especially in an extensive landscape such as western Queensland. This vast and remote country with variable weather presents many accessibility issues. Another challenge is the limited budget and resources to achieve sustainable outcomes.

Beneficiaries

The pest management program contributes economic benefit to both the community and Budjiti People through mustering employment. In addition, payments from mustering are also paid directly to the Budjiti People.

How do the building blocks interact?

Pest management can be a costly and resource intensive activity, especially in a vast landscape such as Australia. Artesian spring wetland recovery on Currawinya National Park was achieved through the application of a pest control program using a combination of a landscape based pest management and a targeted fencing program. Although the landscape programs were effective at reducing pest ungulate numbers, sufficient numbers remained in the landscape to threaten the spring wetlands. Fencing the individual spring groups was a cost efficient option used to address this ongoing threat. Monitoring results were used to evaluate management effectiveness of the program to ensure that desired outcomes were being achieved. Spring condition assessments showed that outcomes were being met, but also assessed the efficacy of different fencing techniques to ensure future fencing activities achieve the desired outcomes and inform other spring management projects.

Impacts

The artesian spring protection project has resulted in a significant improvement of the condition of nationally listed ecological communities and conservation of species through management and removal of pests through a combined pest control program. Protecting the springs has resulted in an improvement in water quality, wetland extent and an increase in species abundance. This has also contributed to the protection of significant Budjiti people’s cultural values and cultural landscape.

Story

Queensland Government

Artesian spring wetlands are known for their high biological, European cultural and First Nation people’s values. The Eulo supergroup consists of 111 individual spring groups, which includes ten biological important spring groups that contain a unique combination of endemic, Great Artesian Basin endemic and/or disjunct populations. These springs are subjected to a number of threatening processes, which includes impacts from domestic and feral ungulates.

 

The Tunga Springs is one of five biologically important springs on Currawinya National Park. This small spring group is in a remote section of the park and provides habitat for the molluscs: Jardinella cf eulo (AMS C. 156780) and plants: Myriophyllum artesium, Utricularia fenshamii, Schoenus falcatus, Triglochin nana and Utricularia dichotoma. There is limited surface water in the Tunga area, and hence the spring has suffered significant pest animal impacts. Pest animals are known to have an adversely impacted spring wetland species diversity and abundance. Some species may have even been lost before they were known to science.

 

A unique feature of artesian spring wetlands communities is the large number of endemic molluscs. Tunga Springs supports one endemic snail, which disappeared not long after its initial collection. The snail had not seen for over sixteen years most likely the result of high feral impact activity, which reduced the preferred habitat of the snail of clear shallow vegetated spring margins to extensive areas of vegetation less muddy quagmire. In 2012, Tunga Springs was acquired as part of Currawinya National Park and was fenced to exclude all feral animals in 2013. By 2014, the springs wetlands had fully recovered, and in 2016 a small number of snails were discovered on the largest of the springs, and in 2017 the snail is now considered as abundant. This program has not only benefitted the snail, but several other endemic plants have recovered, and there has been a significant increase in non-spring specialist species including birds, reptiles and frogs using these wetlands.

Contributed by

Sherri Tanner-McAllister Queensland Department of Environment and Science