Freshwater meadow

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					Freshwater meadow
Freshwater meadows are temporary wetlands that hold water          FLORA AND FAUNA
for less than four months of the year. They are generally no       When freshwater meadows flood (winter to
more than 30cm deep and are productive habitats that support       early spring), the tubers, rhizomes, seeds or
specialised flora and fauna.                                       spores of native plants in the soil begin to grow. Frogs
Freshwater meadows are the most common wetland in the              lay their eggs among the plants and insect larvae hatch. The
Glenelg Hopkins catchment, with more than 2,500 recorded.          abundance of small animals and tender plants becomes a feast
They range in size from less than a hectare up to 50 hectares.     for water birds.
On many properties, freshwater meadows occupy a small              Generally, water is only present until the end of spring or early
proportion of the land total but contain a high percentage of      summer so that resident plants and animals need to complete
the biodiversity on the farm.                                      their lifecycle before the wetland dries out. Their response is to
Protection of these small areas can make a significant             produce drought-resistant eggs and seeds to ensure their
contribution to on-farm biodiversity conservation. In their        survival until the next flooding. Freshwater meadows may
natural state, freshwater meadows contain a variety of             occupy any low, flat land on the basalt plains. The Mt William
attractive plant species. During dry periods, these areas can be   Swamp, for example, has a significant freshwater meadow.
difficult to identify, but in a wet year they become a haven       Freshwater meadows often surround larger wetlands.
for many water-dependent species. In the past, freshwater          They are also excellent locations for bird watching as they
meadows were regarded as “just the boggy end of the                provide food and nesting material for a diverse range of
paddock”, but are in fact, healthy functioning wetlands.           waterbirds. These include Brolgas, White-necked Herons,
                                                                   Swans, Cape Barren Geese, Ducks, Egrets, Bitterns, Spoonbills,
                                                                   Ibis, Snipe and Plovers. Brolgas are a threatened species and
                                                                   depend on freshwater meadows for feeding and nesting.
                                                                   Tussock Grass, Cane Grass and Lignum provide vital habitat for
                                                                   many animals during both wet and dry periods.




 • Freshwater meadow




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THREATS
Freshwater meadows are shallow and easily drained. Dry for
most of the year, they may not be recognised as wetlands. At
least 70 per cent of freshwater meadows in the Glenelg Hopkins
catchment have been drained and many of the smaller wetlands
that remain on private land are grazed by domestic animals or
cropped during dry years. The greatest threats are ploughing,
farm chemicals and sprays, pest plants, vegetation removal and
unrestricted grazing.

Drainage and altered water regime
Most of the species in freshwater meadows require wet and dry
periods to trigger germination or regeneration. Therefore, any
alteration to the water regime will have a detrimental impact
on some of the inhabitants.




                                                                                                                 • Freshwater meadow



                                                                     Cropping and raised bed cropping
                                                                     Disturbance of the soil from ploughing and raised bed
                                                                     formation can change the habitat for plants and animals.
                                                                     Further, the addition of nutrients, gypsum and chemicals can
                                                                     permanently alter the nature of the wetland. Raised bed
                                                                     cropping and the resultant drainage of freshwater meadows
                                                                     have the potential to greatly reduce the number of sites in the
                                 • Freshwater meadow at Port Fairy
                                                                     Glenelg Hopkins catchment.




For further information, please contact:
Glenelg Hopkins CMA 79 French Street, Hamilton, Vic 3300
Tel: (03) 5571 2526 Fax: (03) 5571 2935 www.glenelg-hopkins.vic.gov.au
                                                                                                                                       GSDM7162 02/06




Photography: James Pevitt

				
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posted:5/12/2011
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