Environmentalists take stock of Little Broadwater
By DAVID BANCROFT
A RELATIVELY small patch of wetland behind Lawrence has become the focus of several government agencies, a private conservation organisation, University of New England PhD students and landowners.
The area, known as Little Broadwater, which is bounded to the south by the lower reaches of Sportsmans Creek, was once tidal and regularly flushed with salt water.
But in the 1920s, as farmers looked to open up more arable land, that changed.
The swamp was drained, a tributary that flowed into Sportsmans Creek was filled in, and a weir-like structure was installed to prevent salt getting onto the land.
Ninety years on, attempts are being made to restore at least some of the wetland's environmental values.
Partly funded through a grant from the Recreational Fishing Trusts, the project aims to improve fish breeding and other flora and fauna habitats.
But Wetland Care Australia's chief executive officer, Alan Cibilic, admitted it would be a difficult balance.
He said wetland species had, over time, adapted to the changed environment. Reintroducing salty water and full tidal flows could have a negative impact.
"We are trying to strike a balance between what is good for the fish and other species and the needs of the property owners," he said.
"We are being fairly cautious about reinstating full salt intrusion as it could kill some of the existing vegetation."
Fish flaps and drop boards have been installed to help allow passage of breeding fish between the creek and the wetland.
"It will let the fish back in," he said.
"All sorts of estuarine fish ? mud crabs, prawns, tailor, bream ... all sorts would use areas like this to breed.
"It is frought with danger as it is difficult to find the right balance, but there is evidence of it working."
Mr Cibilic said 76 species of birds had been recorded in the wetland.
The current research would be part of an ongoing trial. Existing funding is expected to help the project until the end of 2007.