Researchers from Monash University in Australia will partially drain a wetland in Victoria’s south-east in a bold experiment aimed at improving the health of the heritage-listed site. A team of 10 researchers and students from Monash University’s Clayton campus, in Melbourne’s south-east, will drain the equivalent of 1,250 olympic swimming pools from the Dowd Morass wetlands in the Gippsland Lakes. The team will use aerial photos and satellite imagery over the last 50 years to monitor long term environmental changes.
The wetlands had remained artificially flooded for the past 30 years because the state government believed it was an important habitat for water bird species, such as ibis and spoon bills. During that period no environmental impact study on Dowd Morass had been done. Only a third of the 1,500 hectare freshwater wetland, next to Lake Wellington, in the Gippsland Lakes, will be drained, while the other two thirds will be left artificially flooded so that researchers can compare their findings. This was to simulate the natural drying process, which has been absent for three decades. The findings from the project could be used in the management of other coastal wetland areas in Victoria and throughout Australia. The findings of the study won’t be finalised until early 2006.