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In the past, attitudes towards wetlands have gone against
the concept of ‘nature knows best’. Wetlands
and saltmarsh areas were commonly ‘filled-in’
and destroyed in the quest for a neat and tidy foreshore,
or used as the site for sporting fields and other developments.
A common question that I am asked is ‘why
are we now trying to protect wetlands?’
Attitudes world-wide are now shifting and the importance
of wetlands to the ecosystem of water bodies is being
recognised. In fact, here in Lake Macquarie, The Office
of the Lake Macquarie & Catchment Coordinator now
commits funds to construct wetlands as they effectively
mimic natural wetlands’ in protecting water quality.
Wetlands, apart from being rich in biodiversity, perform
a similar role for the Lake as the kidney does for the
human body, filtering out sediments, nutrients and other
contaminants and preventing them from entering the Lake.
A recent study in Lake Macquarie found that wetland
areas in the region are being lost at an alarming rate.
Banksia Environmental Consulting conducted a monitoring
program of 30 Lake Macquarie wetlands and compared the
findings with a similar survey completed in 1998. Almost
70% of the natural wetlands were found to have reduced
in size over the five years.
The Office of the Lake Macquarie & Catchment Coordinator
is taking action to protect wetlands and will spend
$240,000 over the next 15 months to repair natural wetlands
in the Lake catchment area. The money will be spent
on target weeding, planting and bush regeneration, along
with rubbish removal, fencing and signage.
The other good news is that we can all help to protect
our valuable wetlands. The study found the activities
causing most damage were, in most cases, entirely preventable.
The major causes are activities such as slashing or
mowing, vehicle access into sensitive areas, land clearing,
weed infestation and altered hydrology.
The works program will integrate with the ongoing efforts
of Landcare groups to improve selected wetlands.
In this case, ‘nature does know best’ and
the protection of wetlands will ensure a healthier Lake
Macquarie for future generations.