(This article was originally published in The Armidale Express 13 May 2020)
Have you ever noticed large, shallow wetlands scattered around the New England Tablelands? They cycle through wet and dry phases over time. Often a turtle can be seen fleeing towards them on a rainy day, or waterbirds will visit when they are inundated. These wetlands are a threatened ecological community and we call them Upland Lagoons.
There are 58 lagoons in the New England Tablelands and most occur on private property. Like all wetlands, they are very productive, capturing the nutrients that run off from the surrounding catchments in rain. Unlike other wetlands, they have small catchments and usually disconnected from rivers and streams.
Lagoons productivity and water supply has made them targets for agriculture. In the cases where they have been altered by damming or draining, the changes have reduced the habitat quality in the lagoon.
Wetlands are sensitive to climate change because longer spells of hot and dry weather mean less water in the wetlands. Water evaporates much faster when it is hot and dry and this means that wetlands spend less time wet, when they can support aquatic plants and animals like dragonfly larva and yabbies. Although the wetting and drying cycles are critical to enable many Australian plants and animals to complete their life cycle, when we change the water regime, it can causes major problems for animals adapted to the historical water fluctuations.
Ecologists at the University of New England are part of the NSW Environmental Trust program, Saving our Species to complete a seven year study on the lagoons. Currently they are surveying community attitudes to find out more about how our community feels and what they know about our lagoons.
With increasing technology you can also assist scientists to find out more about the benefits and importance of the lagoons. Inaturalist is a website available to everyone. You post a photo of a plant, animal or fungi and a community of people online will help you to identify it. So next time you’re out at one of our unique lagoons and an interesting insect or plant captures your eye – take a photo and help to provide information about these important biological assets.
Examples of these lagoons are Little Llangothlin, a nature reserve and Ramsar listed wetland – protected as a representative of this type of wetland. Mother of Ducks in Guyra and Dangars and Racecourse in Uralla are also examples.