Grave future for gum trees

Ancient red river gums are dying in vast numbers due to water diversions from the Lachlan River in central NSW, according to a UNSW study.

Redgum inside

Ancient red river gums are dying in vast numbers due to water diversions from the Lachlan River in central NSW, according to a UNSW study.

It reveals 85 percent mortality over the past 12 years among Eucalyptus camaldulensis within a large delta of the 15,000-hectare Booligal Wetlands - a nationally important region recognised for sustaining large water-bird colonies.

The devastation of the gum species is the most obvious and measureable effect of ecological decline, although water-birds, fish, frogs, reptiles, invertebrates and plants are likely to be affected by water restrictions to this sensitive area, says the report by researchers at the UNSW Australian Wetlands and Rivers Lab.

Professor Richard Kingsford, report co-author, said: "We hadn't really realised the full impacts of diverting water and the drought on wetlands until now.

"This decline accelerated in the last three years, and without significant improvement of river flows to these wetlands, the chances of rehabilitation will be poor," he said.

Lead author, Jessica Armstrong, said: "These wetlands are now like graveyards. The red gums are like silent dead sentinels in what was once a remarkably productive ecosystem, brimming with biodiversity. We just don't know how much all of the other plants and animals rely on the red gums".

Read the full report here.

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Media contacts: Richard Kingsford | 0419 634 215
Dan Gaffney, UNSW Science Media | 0411 156 015 | d.gaffney@unsw.edu.au