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Project:

October 7, 2016 gumption

Vasse Wonnerup Wetlands Investigation Node

The Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands system (VWWS) is an internationally recognised Ramsar listed site and considered a wetland of national importance. The system supports over 30 fish species and over 37,500 waterbirdsof 90 different species.

Management of the VWWS needs to be underpinned by a sound scientific understanding of ecosystem structure and processes, but also needs to align with social and political realities and community expectations. As such, incollaboration with agencies, local governments and leading researchers, SWCC has identified key knowledge gaps and management questions for the system.

Through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, SWCC has also fostered a strong partnership with Murdoch and Edith Cowan University.

In an innovative and collaborative approach established by SWCC, and led by Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University, a suite of six research projects was developed to answer key priority management questions about the wetland system. This Vasse-Wonnerup investigation node includes three PhD projects, one Masters and two honours projects. Theprojects span the ecological and social sciences to provide an integrative approach to the management of this important system.

The research node will advance our knowledge of the wetland’s function and structure, as well as community values, attitudes and perceptions towards the system and its management. Importantly, whilst focussed on a single ecosystem, the integrative nature of the program’s research projects will be broadly applicable to other estuaries and wetlands.

In partnership withGeocatch, SWCC delivered the “Taking a Deeper Look – Marine & Estuary Science” seminar. This seminar aimed to increase the local community understanding of the marine and estuary sciences and how this science will inform future management of Geographe Bay and its waterways.

Three projects as part of the investigation node have now been completed including:

  • The “Adaptive Management Characteristics of Environmental Policies Relevant to the VasseWonnerup Wetlands” Master’s project through Murdoch University. Maters’ summary and recommendations were provided to the VasseWonnerup Taskforce.
  • The “Relationship between floodgate opening (saline inflow) and conditions that promote algal blooms and fish kills in a coastal lagoon” Honours project through Murdoch University in collaboration with the Department of Water.
  • The “Seasonal drying effect on sediments and submerged macrophyte” honours project through Murdoch University.

The three PhD research projects are currently underway including:

  • The “Identifying nutrient and organic matter sources in an impacted coastal wetland system” PhD project with Edith Cowan University (R. McCallum, G. Hyndes, K. McMahon), Murdoch (J. Chambers) and Southern Cross University (J. Eyres, J. Oakes).
  • The “Constructing a quantitative and predictive food web for the VWWS” PhD project with Murdoch University Murdoch (Sian Glazier, Fiona Valesini, James Tweedley, Steve Beatty), Edith Cowan University (Glenn Hyndes)

The social PhD on “How does the community values, perceived and understand the VWWS?” with Murdoch University (ShivaniPurushothaman, Sue More, Kate Rodger).

“My PhD on ‘Constructing a quantitative and predictive food web for the VWWS’ is important for understanding the Vasse-Wonnerup because it will determine the ecological functioning of the wetland by identifying trophic/dietary linkages between key taxa in the wetland with a particular focus on the bird species which grant the wetland it’s Ramsar listing. This dietary information will be used to develop a quantitative and predictive food for the VWWS that will better allow managers to anticipate ecological consequences of actions that impact key food sources and/or consumers in the system and identify components of the food web at lower trophic levels which provide good indicators (‘early warning signals’) of ecosystem health at higher trophic levels.”
Sian Glazier PhD Candidate.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS

A presentation to update the communityand other key stakeholders on the research program will be delivered by June 2017.

Each of the PhD projects will continue to be undertaken in coming years, with findings summarised and integrated into the overall Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands Investigation Node final summary report and recommendations.

The investigation node will further foster a better understanding of threats, management issues and will provide key management recommendations and strategies to protect this highly important wetland into the future.

FUN FACT

The Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands are home to a huge number of birdswith up to 30,000 birds at peak times, including migratory species, which is quite unique. It is also the most significant breeding site for black swans in the whole of WA.

FUNDING RECIPIENTS

  • Murdoch University
  • Edith Cowan University
COMMITMENT
1 presentation about the Vasse Wonnerup Wetlands Investigation Node
100%
ACHIEVEMENT
1 seminar presentation given
100%

Project Manager

Dr Emily Hugues-dit-Ciles

Key Partners