New study to investigate why wetlands matter

Murdoch University PhD candidate Shivani Purushothaman.

A study investigating the value of the Ramsar listed Vasse-Wonnerup wetland system is underway to shed light on why the wetlands matter to the locals and wider community.

Murdoch University PhD candidate Shivani Purushothaman conducted in-depth interviews as the first stage of her PhD and will soon be circulating an online survey to better understand attitudes and perceptions about the wetland.

Ms Purushothaman is currently half way through her study investigating the value of the Ramsar listed Vasse-Wonnerup wetland system to shed light on why the wetlands matter to the locals and wider community. She has completed her first stage of the research which were in-depth interviews and associated mapping of the values of the VWWS. She hopes the study will help inform its future management, as well as providing an analysis of the challenges and opportunities for the wetlands.

She hopes the study will help inform its future management, as well as providing an analysis of the challenges and opportunities for the wetlands.
“The consultations aim to reveal what the local community values most about the wetlands, such as its environmental importance, agricultural landuse, recreational opportunities or its aesthetic beauty,” said Ms Purushothaman.

“This is their opportunity to express what they hope for the future of the wetlands and to raise any concerns they may have. It will inject a human element into the scientific research projects also taking place at the wetlands”.

“Many of the people I’ve spoken to already know and love the wetlands very well and they are very happy this project is taking place. They have really opened up about the wetlands, but there are still many who need to get involved” says Ms Purushothaman.

The Vasse-Wonnerup system is a nationally significant Ramsar-listed wetland, home to more than 37,500 water birds from 90 different species, over 30 fish species and the largest regular breeding colony of Black Swan in south-western Australia.

Ms Purushothaman said the dynamic bird life was a key aspect of the wetlands, drawing visitors to the area. However, her conversations so far had illustrated the importance of finding a balance between encouraging visitors and providing access to the wetlands without disrupting the birds and their habitat.

This study will complement the consultation process undertaken through the Revitalising Geographe Waterways by the Department of Water and Geocatch under the Vasse Taskforce.

She is also consulting with representatives from the key organisations which manage the wetlands, including the Department of Water, South West Catchments Council, Department of Parks and Wildlife and the City of Busselton.

A similar study had been undertaken on the Murray-Darling Basin but Ms Purushothaman believes her research project is unique to WA.

To find out more about the project, contact Shivani on [email protected]

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