Funding to look at lakes health and bushfires

A $350,000 research project will examine the effects of bushfires on the health of the Gippsland Lakes.

THE effects of bushfires on Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site will be investigated by scientists in an effort to build resilience and protect them into the future.
Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said he had been working to secure funding for an environmental audit of the Gippsland Lakes for several years, and said the one-year $350,000 research project would help government protect the unique wetlands.
“The Gippsland Lakes have a rich array of biodiversity that needs to be protected,” he said.
“Our lagoons are home to waterbirds, frogs and fish, and one of only two known resident populations of Burrunan dolphin.”
The program will draw on the expertise from stakeholders including the CSIRO, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, key Victorian government agencies, and West Gippsland and East Gippsland Catchment Management Authorities.
Mr Chester said the waterways were also enjoyed by residents and tourists year-round, helping to support the region’s economy, and it was vital they were protected.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the audit would assess damage from the black summer bushfires.
“More than a third of some parts of the catchment were devastated in the black summer bushfires, with detrimental impacts on the water quality and aquatic habitat in the eastern systems which flow into the lakes,” Ms Ley said.
“It is important that we learn from past events and use this knowledge to inform our bushfire recovery and catchment restoration work, and our longer term actions to build resilience to future bushfires and climate-induced events.
“This project will become a blueprint for similar future projects in other bushfire-affected coastal catchments, and for incorporating traditional knowledge and western science into tailored climate adaptation programs.”
The site, which has been Ramsar-listed since 1982, is the largest estuarine lagoon system in Australia and covers more than 60,000 hectares.
The coastal lagoons support a number of threatened species, including the Growling Grass Frog, Australian Grayling and Australasian Bittern, and more than 20,000 waterbirds are frequent visitors to the site.
The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site project is part of the $14 million spend on forests and coastal ecosystems of east Gippsland bushfire region from the Australian government’s $200 million Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Program.
More information about bushfire recovery in East Gippsland is at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery/regional-delivery-program/east-gippsland.