In an effort to combat invasive plants in wetlands on their Country near Ingham, in 2012 Mungalla Aboriginal Corporation (owned by the Nywaigi Traditional Owners) removed an earthern bund wall that had been isolating 230 hectares from saline tidal water. The effectiveness of this action was evaluated years later by Dr Nathan Waltham from JCU for a NESP Tropical Water Quality Hub project, who found that the re-introduction of natural saline water to the wetland had drastically reduced the number of invasive plants and restored a healthy level of fish stocks to a previously ‘dead’ wetland ecosystem. These results are now being used by Mungalla Aboriginal Corporation in their tourism business, Mungalla Aboriginal Tours.
“We do tours through this area and we can show customers how an area like this can be brought back to its natural state,” said Mungalla Aboriginal Corporation director Mr Jacob Cassady.
“Everything that comes out of the biodiversity and wetland research about the plant and fish species we explain to the tourists. We also get people involved in the revegetation project, taking them through the whole tour and then at the end of it they actually plant a tree.”
Meanwhile just south of Cairns, another Aboriginal small business working on wetlands has also been helped by NESP TWQ Hub research, again led by Dr Nathan Waltham at JCU. A model to calculate nitrogen filtration efficiency in the Wet Tropics produced through a NESP TWQ Hub project has enabled Jaragun NRM to demonstrate that their constructed wetland is effectively filtering agricultural runoff from the 2,500 ha Babinda Swamp Drainage Area, paving the way for collaboration and future project development in the Russell River catchment of the Wet Tropics. Jaragun NRM Director Ms Liz Owen said that the strength of many NESP TWQ projects is the relationships developed for joint participation with local canefarmers and canegrower organisations in other projects that contribute to improved water quality to the Great Barrier Reef.
“Nathan Waltham and the Hub’s scientific input into project design has ensured that canegrowers have increased confidence in water quality projects, including from new technologies like denitrification bioreactors being trialled under the GBR Innovation Fund as an on-farm strategy to filter nitrogen contained in groundwater,” she said.
“NESP TWQ Hub staff have been an invaluable support to our projects.”
The results of the project will be incorporated into a jointly-developed hydrograph that can be applied to better estimate the amount of nitrogen able to be intercepted for a second wetland Jaragun has planned in the area.