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Just Add Water

Ephemeral wetlands, like Winton Wetlands, dry and fill in a natural cycle following rainfall in the catchments of the creeks which feed the wetlands. The drying phase, now passed, was very important to the wetland ecosystem which resulted in:

  • organisms laying desiccation-resistant stages or eggs, or plants setting seeds as the water dried out;
  • plants being stimulated to colonise the edge and the wetland bed; and
  • nutrients being transformed and preparing the system for next refilling phase.

Now, as the catchment has become soaked, it seems every rain event even high in the catchment away from the wetlands, is sending pulses of water into our smaller wetlands (such as the Ashmeads Swamp, 7 Mile Creek Wetland and 11 Mile Creek Wetland, and others). They are now spilling over into the larger wetlands of Boggy Bridge Swamp and Winton Swamp, even if this isn’t that obvious from the Hub or the main roads.

The much-needed inflows will create new habitat for the wetland by releasing nutrients that stimulate the growth of aquatic flora and fauna. As the water inundates the wetland bed, the eggs of zooplankton and algal spores hatch, and this creates great feeding opportunities for many bird and fish species. The filling wetlands also trigger native fish and waterbird breeding.

It really is the boom time for wetlands and hopefully rain keeps falling to enable a new cycle of life for many wetland creatures across the whole reserve. This is an exciting time for wetland observers to see what plants and animals use the wetlands. It is also an important time for species to become established or abundant within a wetland system. All you need is to “just add water”.

7 Mile Creek Wetland, August 2020 – just after flooding, the terrestrial plants are drowned and will be soon replaced by the aquatic plants flourishing in the centre of the wetland in the photo. Photo credit: John Spencer
Winton Swamp near Lunette, August 2020. Many plants, such as dock shown in the foreground of the image, have underground tubers which will sprout when inundated, providing rapid cover. As flooding gets deeper, true aquatic plants will take over. Photo credit: Chloe Trevena, Winton Wetlands.