Wetland Science

The Valley of the Mist property is part of an estuarine wetland of over 77 hectares, correctly known as the 100 acre swamp.

An assessment of this rare environment was undertaken in 2003 by Dr Stuart Blanch against RAMSAR criteria which describes the site of the wetlands, their ecological character, flora and fauna and future sustainable utilisation.

An edited version of this assessment and other articles of interest are available to view.  

For further information please contact us.

RAMSAR CONVENTlON

ABORlGlNAL CULTURAL HERlTAGE
The lands in the 100 acre swamp area is within the Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Peoples’ traditional tribal boundary. The Aboriginal Communities of the Nambucca Valley and surrounding areas continue to maintain a strong connection, use and respect for culture and heritage. Aboriginal cuitural heritage is dynamic and diverse, and the culture remains alive through the individuals, their parents, their grandparents, their families and the community generally. The knowledge is passed down from our ancestors and eiders through their knowledge, learning and awareness of Aboriginal cultural heritage from the past through to today. Aboriginal cultural heritage exists in the landscape, the plants and the animals and our general natural environment. The natural resource s are an important part of the Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Peoples every day lives, and continue to be used to keep their culture and them alive today. The Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Elders visited the 100 Acre Swamp to discuss and review the significance and importance of their culture and heritage that remains in the area. The Elders appreciated and took pleasure in the fact that the area is still within its natural condition. They support the Ramsar Convention submission to preserve and appreciate the 100 Acre Swamp for future generations The Aboriginal Elders discussed and identified the area as an area known to hold significant and unique cultural heritage for the local Aboriginal People. All Elders agreed that as the area is of high cultural value as a wetland, and their spiritual beliefs and connections to the water is important as the provider and giver of life to all along with the mother earth. The water resource provides a variety of foods both in the water and on the water such as the birds and animals, required for their spiritual and physical nourishment.

Many of the birds and animals such as the bush turkey, the snakes, the wallabies and kangaroos and many of the others that access the natural resources are used by the Aboriginal People for food, clothing and other sections of Aboriginal culture. The animals are also an. integral part that represent a family kinship or tribes’ cultural totem, however the animal cannot be eaten by the family or tribe due to its immense importance under the Aboriginal lore. In the wetlands and surrounding area the Elders identified several Aboriginal camp sites of the past Peoples that lived and travelled the area that is rich is food and cultural resources. Many of the resources in the area are also used in Aboriginal ceremonies by both the Aboriginal men and women. The area consists of tea-trees and many other trees that once again are used for medicinal and cultural purposes by the Gumbayngginr Aboriginal People of the area.

RECOMMENDATlON BY THE GUMBAYNGGlRR ABORlGlNAL ELDERS:
That the local Aboriginal Elders be consulted and involved in the Ramsar Plan of Management process, in order for them to identify  and provide recommendations for protection and management of Aboigiral cultural heritage in the area; and to negotiate the possibility of further access to cultural resources in the area into the future.

A Swamp for all seasons:
Drought proofing 100-acre Swamp.

l00-Acre Swamp is an estuarine wetland located immediately west of Macksville, on the Taylors Arm of the Nambucca River on the NSW mid- north coast. It is one of three significant estuarine wetlands in the Nambucca Estuary and the land holders are working towards its conservation with the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation and Wetlandcare Australia through a grant received from the Federal Governments’ Envirofund drought recovery program

The Problem
The swamp has undergone a number of changes to water regimes in the last 100 years, including draining and the installation of flood gates in the early 1900’s, the decommissioning of the flood gates, excavation and levee bank construction and increased clearing, grazing and water extraction in the upper catchment. These impacts have led to a loss of water quality and changes in the vegetation types and habitat values seen in the area The system currently supports healthy riparian and estuarine vegetation communities, a variety of bird life as well as a number of commercial and recreational fish species.

The Project
The visible impacts of the drought resulted in landowners approaching the Wetlandcare Australia to apply for funding under the NHT Envirofund drought recovery program. With the support of the NSW DEC, the Safari Club lnternational, the Nambucca Valley Birdwatchers and Thumb Creek Rainforest Nursery the group were successful developing a project, during which works were undertaken to enhance the values of the wetland including : Fencing and exclusion of cattle from the wetland. Weed control Planting locally native wetland and riparian species Bird monitoring Bird hide construction Management planning

Bird Hide
The Safari Club lnternational donated the materials and time to construct a bird hide on the levee bank of the wetland, an area that does not intrude into the main feeding or roosting habitats of the bird, but gives birdwatchers an opportunity to see many species in their natural environment. The levee bank leading to the hide has been planted out with locally native trees and shrubs to provide a sheltered corridor of access for bird watchers, and attract forest birds common in the well vegetated riparian zones of the wetland.

Fencing
Three of the four landholdings surrounding the swamp were fenced to ensure the exclusion of stock from 29OOm of riparian areas The fourth farm is a bush property on which no stock are run, so the entire wetland is now effectively free of the impacts of stock grazing Noel and Lyn Spaiding have maintained a small section of stock access to the fresh water dams on their land, whilst excluding stock from the main wetland area

Planting
Landholders and local volunteers spent three days planting trees in the degraded riparian areas of the swamp. The local tree species selected were germinated from seed collected in existing riparian forests and will work to stabilise exposed soils on the levee banks, increase the filtration capacity of the riparian zone and provide cover to birdwatchers approaching the swamp.

Monitoring
Bird surveys were undertaken monthly throughout the project, with a species list of 1 10 birds compiled from past and current monitoring. Baseline water quality assessment was undertaken to indicate nutrient levels, pH and salinity in the swamp, with this data to contribute to the development of a detailed monitoring program in the future.

The Future
Landholders in the 100-acre swamp see the conservation of this area as a priority for the future and are currently involved in developing a long term conservation agreement for the site. The ongoing wise use of the wetland will be reflected in management strategies that maintain and enhance the ecological character of the swamp.
1 Exclusion of stock from wetland areas
2 Active weed control
3 Development of a monitoring program
4 Detailed survey of the ecological character of the area

Further information For further information specifically about the 100-acre swamp project please contact Dennis Ryan (Landholder) on (O2) 65683268, or, WetiandCare (02)6681 6169 WetlandCare Australia PO Box 114 BALLlNA, NSW, 2478. Facsimilie:(02)6686 6866 www.wetlandcare.com.au Australia’s Leading Wetland Repair Organisation

Assessment of the ‘100 acre swamp’ in the Nambucca catchment area on the NSW North Coast.

Executive summary

Background
The 100 acre swamp is a shallow estuarine west wetland of Macksville in the Nambucca catchment on the New South Wales north coast (see Figures 1a and 1b).Landholders in the 100 acre assistance from the NSW National swamp requested Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in September 2002 to conserve the wetland using the provisions of the Ramsar Convention (1971).

Environmental and geomorphological information The wetland has a large relatively open-water section in the south east section and two major lobes or bays which receive the majority of freshwater inflows. These bays occur in the western and north western sections, and support dense closed forest (see Figures 4 and 5). Average water depth in the wetland is 0.50 – 1 m, .O with the largest areas of deeper water occurring in the south eastern section. Depths are regularly less than 0.50 m in many areas and during drought. The is wetland not large by Australian standards, measuring at its widest 1 km by 2 km. The area of largely open water in the south eastern section measures approximately 520 m by 560m  

Recent wetland mapping by the NSW NPWS (Kingsford et al., 2003) classified the 100 acre swamp as broadly being an ‘estuarine wetland’ with a total 77.68 ha. This includes areas of riparian forest and salt marsh around the perimeter of the wetland.

Vegetation surveys and discussions with landholders have identified ten vegetation communities, ranging from a mixed Swamp Oak-Rush (Casuarina glauca-Juncus) community which covers much of the wetland, to Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) to rain forest . Significant areas of intact dry sclerophyll forest with small pockets of rain forest occur around the wetland. Swamp oak, broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca quinqumewia) and swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) occur either as single-species stands or as mixtures in the riparian zones in the southern, western and northern sections.  

The wetland is considered to be one of the most significant waterfowl habitats in the Nambucca catchment. The wetland supports a range of water birds, including migratory species and at least one State-threatened species, including Black-necked Stork (or jabiru), Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Black Swan, Black Duck, Black- winged Stilt and Royal Spoonbill.

The wetland is an important area for breeding by Black Swan. The riparian zone and adjacent dry sclerophyll also support forests significant numbers of species.  

The 100 acre swamp was floodgated from the 1920s to the 1960s. Drains were dug through much of the wetland at that time. Largely natural flow patterns have occurred over the past 35 years  

Tenure The wetland occurs across largely on private land, with a largely unused and un-trafficable Crown road reserve transecting the wetland.  

The wetland occurs across ten properties managed eight separate landholders. Of by these, five landholders are to list the six properties they own as proposing components a wetland international under the Ramsar Convention. of of importance  

The area mapped as SEPP 14wetland has an areaof80.88 ha (tag 385)

Assessment against the Ramsar criteria The wetland was assessed as satisfying Criterion 1 of the Ramsar Convention: A wetland should be considered internationally a important if it contains representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the  appropriate biogeographic region.

The wetland types and vegetation communities that occur in the wetland were assessed as being representative of those found within the Nambucca catchment and the broader NSW North Coast Bioregion.  

Further investigations will be required to determine if other Criteria may be satisfied, notably Criteria 3 (biodiversity values), 4 (refuge for species), and 8 (fish habitat)  

Development of a ‘Nambucca catchment  Ramsar site’
The wetland should be nominated with a view to proactively developing a network of wetlands within a single ‘Nambucca catchment Ramsar site’ within the next 5-10 years. The 100 acre swamp would be the inaugural site within such a complex, with additional nominations developed as other landholders agreed to nominate their wetlands as wetlands of international importance and manage them according to the  wise use principle.  

Additions to a ‘Nambucca catchment Ramsar may site’ conceivably occur through the nomination of wetlands occurring on a range of land tenures and along the  estuary-floodplain continuum.  

Such a network of Ramsar sites in the Nambucca catchment would complement those currently being investigated in catchments to the immediate south (Macleay) and north (Bellinger). An objective in the medium to long-term would be to establish a ‘North Coast Ramsar Wetland Network’ by nominating Ramsar sites in the major North Coast catchments in a strategic and coherent manner.

Introduction
The 100 acre swamp is a shallow estuarine wetland west of Macksville in the Nambucca catchment on the New South Wales north coast. Landholders in the 100 acre swamp requested assistance from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in September 2002 to conserve the wetland using the provisions of the Ramsar Convention (1971). The following provides background information on the estuarine and wetland habitats of the Nambucca catchment. Ecological and geomorphological information for the Nambucca estuary The Nambucca estuary, in which the 100 acre swamp is located, has been identified as having the characteristics listed in Table 1.  

Table 1. Estuary characteristics of the Nambucca River. Sources: 1, Adam etal. (1985); 2, OzEstuaries Database(20O3); 3, Stressed Rivers Assessment Report 1998.

Estuary descriptor lnformation / Comment   Estuary classification after Adam et al Late-stage barrier estuary (2D) after OzEstuaries River dominated Deltatype2 Wave dominated Estuary condition assessment Extensively modified Proportion of catchment cleared 2 60% Maximum length 2 20 km   Habitat types-actual or predicted. 2. 2 Area km 2   Flood estuary 7.7 Flood and ebb tidal delta (area) O.94 lntertidal flats (area) O.59

Mangroves (area) 1.28(10% of estuary) Seagrass coverage O.22 (2.9% of estuary) Saltmarsh 1.O (13% of estuary) Water area 9.26 Tidal sandbanks O.38 Tidal range 1.20 Seagrass species present Zosteraceae Mangrove species present Grey mangrove (Avicennia marina), River mangrove (Aegicerus corniculatum) Stressed Rivers Assessment 3 Environmental stress Medium Hydrologic stress Low

Identified conservation value for the Yes (by NPWS and NSW Fisheries) Coastal Nambucca sub-catchment    

Faunal habitat
The 100 acre swamp is considered to be one of the most significant waterfowl habitats in the Nambucca catchment. The riparian zone and adjacent dry sclerophyll forests also support significant numbers of species.  

The NSW Wildlife Atlas contains no records for any species of flora and fauna from the wetland. This probably reflects an absence of surveys and / or failure to enter records in the NSW Wildlife Atlas data base.  

An interim list of bird sightings is provided in Table 2  

Table 2. lnterim list of bird species recorded from the 100 acre swamp. Bird sightings have been recorded monthly by the Nambucca Valley

Birdwatchers over the period  in 2003. Site records have been gathered from the range of vegetation communities listed in Table 3. A full species list will be developed over a 12 month period (Note.-this list is indicative only and will be updated with information provided b the Nambucca Valley Birdwatchers in the near future.

Black-necked stork, Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Pacific Black Duck Black Swan, GreyTeal, Little Egret, lntermediate Egret, Royal Spoonbill Black-winged Stilt, Welcome Swallow, Red-necked Stint, Sacred lbis  

Morphology of the 100 acre swamp
The Nambucca River is typical of short-run rivers along the east coast of temperate Australia. Accordingly, the 100 acre swamp and other wetlands associated with the Nambucca floodplain and estuary are relatively small compared to most listed Ramsar wetlands in Australia.

The 100 acre swamp is an estuarine wetland. Recent wetland mapping by the NSW NPWS (Kingsford et al., 2003) classified the 100 acre swamp as broadly being an ‘estuarine wetland’ with a total area of 77.68 ha. This includes areas of riparian forest and saltmarsh around the perimeter of the wetland  

The wetland has been mapped as overlying high-risk acid sulphate soils (ASS) (ASS Priority Management Areas, DLWC, 2000). Acid soils are present within the uppermost 1 m of the soil profile and as such are prone to disturbance. The area of high-risk acid sulphate soil mapped as underlying the 100 acre swamp is 87.24 ha. The wetland has a large relatively open-water section in the southeast section and two major lobes or bays which receive the majority of freshwater inflows. These bays occur in the western and northwestern sections, and support dense closed forest (see Figures 4 and 5). Average water depth in the wetland is O.50 – 1.O m, with the largest areas of deeper water occurring in the southeastern section. Depths are regularly less than O.50 m in many areas and during drought. The wetland is not large by Australian standards, measuring at its widest 1 km by 2 km. The area of largely open water in the south eastern section measures approximately 520 m by 560m.

Drainage channels have been dug through much of the wetland, indicated the by lines across the wetland in Figure . The spoil heaps have been colonised rushes by  (Juncus spp.), swamp oak (Casuarina  glauca) and grey mangrove (Avcennia marina). Vegetation  Ten vegetation associations have been identified during preliminary vegetation surveys in the 100 acre and the zone.  

Vegetation types of the 100 acre swamp.
Ten vegetation communities were identified from surveys (meandering transects  undertaken on 13 March 2003), interpretation of aerial photographs and discussions with landholders. An indicative map communities was developed by matching survey information with of vegetation vegetation communities delineated from paired 1:25, OOO colour aerial photographs taken on 10 August 1997 (see Figure 5). Note that a’?’ indicates that the plant name is uncertain and requires verification at a later date.

Vegetation association / Dominant plant species habitat type  

Open water (saline) Occasional ?sea tassel (Ruppia sp) or charophytes on bottom

Open water (saline or fresh) Swamp oak (Casuarina glauca) trees growing on large tufts of rushes (Juncus spp)

Open water inside earthern Rushes (Juncus sp), lilies (?Nymphoides levee (freshwater, often sp), river clubrush (Schoenoplectus validus) highly acidic)

Mangrove forest Grey mangrove (Avicenma marina)  

Riparian forest swamp oak (Casuarina glauca) Riparian forest Broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleucaquinqumewia) and swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta). Mid-storey oftencontaining swamp oak (Casuarina glauca) and other paperbarks (Melaleuca spp).Under storey oftern (Blechnum sp), saw sedge (Gahnia sp), rush (Juncus sp) andsalt couch (Sporobolus virginicus). Staghorns or elkhorns grow as epiphytes on swamp oak trees in large numbers in some areas. Saltmarsh Rushes (Juncus spp), salt couch(Sporobolus virginicus), samphire(Salicornia sp).  

Rainforest X with understorey of Bangalow palms Archontophoenix cunninghammii and cabbage-tree palm Livistonia X. Wet Sclerophyll forest Unsure

Dry Sclerophyll forest Blackbutt (Eucalyptuspilularis), spotted gum (E. maculata),  brush box (Lophostemon confertus), tallowwood (E. microcorys), flooded gum (E. grandis), turpentine (Syncarpja glomulifera), red mahogany (E. resinifera), white mahogany (?E. umbra ssp. carnea), ironbarks,(Eucalyptusspp), ?corkwood (Caldcluvia paniculosa), forest oak (Casuarina torellosa). Understorey of various rainforestspecies,  ferns and vines.

There appears to be very few plant species growing under the water in the main section of the wetland. However, extensive beds of a submerged sea-grass-like species (probably sea tassel, Ruppia spp) and a filamentous algae (species unknown) cover the bed of the wetland in many areas.  

The dominant species over much of the permanently wet parts of the wetland are swamp oak (Casuarina glauca) which grows out of small ‘islands’ of the rush Juncus spp (see Figure 6). Grey mangrove (Avicennia marina) has colonised approximately 6.5 ha of the wetland, mainly the small inlet channel linking the wetland and the Nambucca river and an area on the northeastern side of the wetland adjacent to the inlet channel. However, grey mangrove plants commonly occur as scattered individuals in shallower water (average depth cO.2 m) throughout the eastern half of the wetland. The spread of grey mangroves seedlings though natural means is likely to replace large areas currently dominated by swamp oak and rush in the next few decades. This may lead to significant changes in the wetland, with less area available to waterbirds and other species that prefer non-mangrove habitats.

Significant areas of intact dry sclerophyll forest with small pockets of rainforest occur around the wetland. Swamp oak, broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca quinquinewia) and swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) occur either as single-species stands or as mixtures in the riparian zones in the southern, western and northern sections.

Dry sclerophyll forest occurs in mature stands on the properties to the west of Brian and Jenny Harget’s (owned by Miley McCulloch), on the slopes of the long ridge on the western side of the wetland (owned by Dennis Ryan and Marilyn Sloman-Ryan, and Brian and June Finlayson), and mixed with rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest species on Kees and Violet de Bruyn’s property.

Tenure and land use
The 100 acre swamp occurs largely on private land, with a largely unused and un-trafficable Crown road reserve transecting the wetland.

The Nambucca Local Environment Plan zones the majority of 100 acre swamp as zone 7(a) (environmental protection) (area, 80 ha). Much of the wetland, but not some significant riparian vegetation, is also protected under State Environmental Protection Policy 14 (Coastal Wetlands) (SEPP 14). The area mapped as SEPP 14 wetland has an area of 80.88 ha (tag 385).  The wetland occurs across ten properties managed by eight separate landholders.  Of these, five landholders are proposing to list the six properties they own as components of a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

European cedar getters commenced logging in the Nambucca valley shortly after explorer John Oxley visited the Nambucca valley in the 1830s

The vast majority of wetlands on the Nambucca river floodplain were drained and / or floodgated for grazing and cropping over the past century (NPWS, 2001, p31). Whilst floodgates were constructed at the entrance to the 100 acre swamp in the 1920s the wetland was not completely drained and was not cultivated. For the following 35 years much of the wetland, especially the deeper areas in the southeastern section, was filled with freshwater from catchment inflows and was dominated by freshwater wetland plants and animals. The wooden floodgates collapsed in the early 1960s which permitted saline water to fill the wetland again, thus reversing the effects of floodgating that had existed for the past three and a half decades.

Freshwater dependent vegetation rapidly died and was replaced by species that tolerate saline conditions. Grey mangrove marina) (Avicennia plants commenced re-colonising the wetland from the small creek connecting to the Nambucca River. This process continues to this day and is likely to lead to a significant increase in area covered in the several decades. by mangroves following

An earthen bund was in part of the wetland on the eastern shore in the mid 1980s (see Figure 4). The bund created a small freshwater wetland by capturing drainage from the small rise to the east and preventing the intrusion of saline water. Acidity levels within the bunded area are regularly high.

Threats to the 100 acre swamp  
Development in the catchments to the north west and west of the wetland, particularly construction of dams on tributaries and clearing which leads to the transport of sediment into the wetland. Freshwater flows from these catchments to the wetland are important for maintaining a transition from saline to freshwater dependent flora and fauna in the wetland east-west along and east-northwest gradients. Dams on tributaries and farm dams flows, intercept especially during  

Vegetation clearing, especially along the ridge on the northern side of the wetland. Removal of native vegetation, encompassing both understorey species (grasses, and mature trees, reduces the amount of habitat available for shrubs) animals. Maintenance of an intact zone is critical riparian for the health of the wetland. Removal of vegetation, on the steep ground on the northern especially shore wetland, will lead to significant erosion and in-filling Of the wetland. of the  Excessive grazing in the riparian zone can lead to vegetation loss and nutrient addition to the wetland from cattle faeces.

Spread of introduced weeds, such as fireweed and camphor laurel.  

Colonisation by Grey Mangrove due to both natural processes and human disturbance. lnvasion of estuarine wetlands by mangroves is occurring in many areas on the Australian east coast, and has been attributed to a range of factors including addition of sediments and nutrients from catchments and sewage disposal, sea level rise and changes in tidal patterns following construction of river training walls and similar structures.  

Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of lnternational lmportance of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, lran, 1971) (‘the Strategic Framework’) The following guidelines have been adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, lran, 1971) to assist Parties to assess wetlands against the eight criteria set out above.

Criterion 1: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.  ln relation to Criterion 1, the Strategic Framework provides the following guidance   ‘Long-term target for the Ramsar List.  

Gujdeline 67. To have included in the Ramsar List at least one suitable representativeaccording of each wetland type, according to the Ramsar Classification Sysfem, which is found within each bjogeographic regjon.’  

Relevance: 100 acre swamp contains the following three types of wetlands according to the Ramsar Classification System^

Type F. Estuarine waters; permanent water of estuaries and estuarine systems of deltas.  

Type H. lntertidal marshes; includes salt marshes, salt meadows, saltings, raised salt marshes; includes tidal brackish and freshwater marshes.  

Type l. lntertidal forested wetlands; includes mangrove swamps, nipah swamps and tidal freshwater swamp forests.

Myall Lakes, north of Newcastle, was listed as a Ramsar site in June 1999. The site designation states that Myall Lakes contains, amongst others, the three wetland types found at 100 acre swamp (htt ://www.wetlands.or /RDB/Ramsar Dir/Australia/AUO52DO2.doc). However the two wetlands are markedly different, with 100 acre swamp containing a much greater proportion of wetland types H (intertidal marshes) and l (intertidal forested wetlands) than occurs in Myall Lakes. This reflects the greater influence of saline inflows and tidal range in the 100 acre swamp than in Myall Lakes.  

‘Guideline 68. In applying this Criterion systematically, Contracting Parties are encouraged to:  . .. iii. for each wetland type within each biogeographic region, identify for designation under the Convention those sites which provide the best examples’  

The 100 acres swamp is considered to contain some of the best examples of the swamp oak-rush (Casuarina glauca – Juncus spp.) vegetation community in the Nambucca River catchment. The interim vegetation survey revealed approximately 3.9 ha of this mixed vegetation community (see Figure 5). ln addition, approximately 3 ha of Swamp Oak-dominated forest occurs in the wetland. The riparian zone is largely in tact and at places quite extensive. Some very significant remnant patches of Melaleuca quinquinewia forest, Casuarina glauca woodland, Eucalyptus robusta forest and saltmarsh remain.

The NPWS considers that catchments rather than lBRA bioregions (lnterim Biogeographic Regionalisations of Australia) bioregions generally provide the most appropriate scale for defining a ‘biogeographic region’ (see Guideline 68 above) for assessing sites against the Ramsar Convention. Hence the 100 acre swamp qualifies for nomination against at least Criteria 1. However, given the relatively small size of the Nambucca catchment, the wetland is also arguably one of the best remaining examples of this type of wetland in the NSW North Coast Bioregion (lBRA), albeit a relatively small example  

‘Guideline 70 Hydrological importance. As indicated by Article 2 of the Convention, wetlands can be selected for their hydrological importance which, inter alia, may include the following attributes They may be important for seasonal water retention for wetlands or other areas of conservation importance downstream…’

100 acre swamp contains the largest areas of open shallow saline water in a wetland in the Nambucca River catchment’. Due to its narrow outlet (c2 m in parts) to the Nambucca River it represents a significant area of water retention in the mid reaches of the Nambucca catchment.  

‘Smaller sites should not be overlooked (Guideline 40). /n developing a systematic approach to Ramsar site designation, Contracting Parties are encouraged to recognize that potential Ramsar sites are not necessarily the largest wetiands within the territory. Some wetland types either never were or are no longer found as large wetland systems, and these should not be overlooked. They may be especially important in maintaining habitat or ecological community-level biological diversity’  

Whilst 100 acre swamp is not a large wetland by Australian standards it is representative of similar wetlands associated with relatively short-run rivers on the NSW North Coast. Like many wetlands on the North Coast the 100 acre swamp is estuarine with some sections in the upper reaches experiencing more brackish or fresh conditions during periods of heavy rainfall.  

‘Flagship and keystone species (Guideline 43). The concepts of indicator, flagship and keystone species are important for Contracting Parties to consider as well. The presence of “indicator” species can be a useful measure of good wetland quality Well known “flagship species can also have great symbolic and awareness raising value for wetland conservation and wise use, whereas “keystone” species play vital ecological roles. Wetlands with significant populations of indicator, flagship and/or keystone species may merit special consideration as sites of international importance’  

1  Whilst the Gumma Gumma wetlands to the east of Macksville are more extensive than the  100 acre swamp, they are less influenced by saline water inflows and have been affected by cattle grazing to a greater extent.

Relevance: Swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) and Broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca quinqumervia) are considered to be ‘keystone species’ as they flower in late autumn and winter when food resources for various animal species (nectar- feeding bats, various birds and insects) are scarce as few other tree species are flowering.  

The 100 acre swamp provides nesting or feeding habitats for a range of bird species that act as ‘flagship’ species, such as Black-necked Stork (formerly known as jabiru), White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Osprey and Black Swan. These species are widely known and recognisable within the local community. Therefore they are valuable for raising the profile of the wetland amongst the local community.    

‘Guideline 48. Wetland vegetation zonation. While some sites considered for designation will be identified at landscape scale, containing substantial elements^ of whole wetland ecosystems, others may be smaller. /n

selecting and delimiting such more restricted wetlands the following guidance may assist in determining their extent:    

i. as far as possible, sites should include complexes or mosaics of vegetationcommunities, not just single communities of importance…;    

ii. zonations of communities should be included as completely as possible in thesite. lmportant are communities showing natural gradients (transitions), for instance from wet to dry, from salt to brackish, from brackish to fresh, from oligotrophic to eutrophic, from rivers to their associated banks, shingle bars and sediment systems, etc.,    

iii. natural succession of vegetation communities often proceeds rapidly in wetlands. To the greatest extent possible and where these exist, all phases of succession (for example, from open shallow water, to communities of emergent vegetation, to reedswamp, to marshland or peatland, to wet forest) should be included in designated sites. …,

iv. continuity of a wetland with a terrestrial habitat of high conservation value will enhance its own conservation value.’    

The 100 acre swamp contains a mosaic of ten identified vegetation communities (see Table 3 and Figure 5) (Guideline 48 (i)). Gradients exist between these communities, reflecting changes in water depth, salinity and soil type (Guideline 48 (ii)). Salinity levels decline with increasing distance from the inlet channel, especially in the north western and western lobes.    

Ongoing colonisation of much of the eastern half of the wetland by Grey Mangrove (Avicennia marina), particularly noticeable in the north eastern section, illustrates successional change in the wetland from open water and Swamp Oak-Rush dominated communities to mangrove dominance (Guideline 48 (iii)).  

The riparian zone grades into areas of intact biodiverse dry sclerophyll forest, particularly on the northern, north western, western and south western edges of the wetland (Guideline 48 (iv)). Approximately 21.5ha of dry sclerophyll forest has been mapped in the immediate catchment of the wetland.

Additional criteria potentially satisfied by the 100 acre swamp. Anecdotal information and observations indicate that the 100 acre swamp may also  satisfy one or more of the following criteria following the collection of additional data.  

Criterion 3: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.

‘Guideline 78. When Contracting Parties are reviewing candidate sites for listing under this Criterion, greatest conservation value will be achieved through the selection of  suite of sites that have the following characteristics. They

i. are hotspots of biological diversity and are evidently species-rich even though the number of species present may not be accurately known; and/or  

ii. are centres of endemism or otherwise contain significant numbers of endemic species; and/or    

iii. contain the range of biological diversity (including habitat types) occurring in a region; and/or  

iv contain a significant proportion of species adapted to environmental conditions (such as temporary wetlands in semi-arid or arid areas),- and/or v support particular elements of biological diversity that particularly characteristic of the biogeographic region.

More information and analyses are required to determine if the wetland satisfies this criterion, as enunciated by Guideline 78. lt is not proposed to delay nomination of the 100 acre swamp whilst this information is gathered. lf Criterion 3 is found to be satisfied in the future, then the nomination may be updated to new include this  information .

Criterion 4: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life or cycles, provides refuge during adverse conditions.

‘Guideline 80. Critical sites for mobile or migratory species are those which contain particularly high proportions of populations gathered in areas relatively small at particular stages of life cycles. This may be at particular times of the year or, in semi-arid or arid areas, during years with a particular rainfall many pattern. For example, waterbirds use relatively small areas as key staging points (to eat on and rest) their long-distance migrations between breeding and non-breeding areas. For Anatidae (duck) species, moulting sites are also critical. Sites in semi-arid or arid areas may hold very important concentrations of waterbirds and other mobile wetland species and be crucial to the survival of populations, yet may vary greatly in apparent importance from year-to-year as a consequence of considerable variability in rainfall  patterns.  

Guideline 8. Non-migratory wetland species are unable to move away when climatic or other conditions become unfavourable and only some sites may feature the special ecologjcal characteristics to sustain species’ populations in the medium or long-term. Thus in dry periods, some crocodile and fish species retreat to deeper areas or pools within wetland complexes, as the e>extent of suitable aquatic habitat diminishes. These restricted areas are critical for the survival of animals at that site until rains come and increase the extent of wetland habitat once more. Sites (often with complex ecologicai, geomorphological and physical structures) which perform such functions for non-migratory species are especially important for the persistence of populations and should be considered as priority candidates for listing.’  

More information and analyses are required to determine if the wetland satisfies this criterion, as enunciated by Guidelines 80 and 81. lt is not proposed to delay nomination of the 100 acre swamp whilst this information is gathered. lf Criterion 4 is found to be satisfied in the future, then the nomination may be updated to include this new information. When completed, bird surveys may indicate that the wetland is particularly important for migratory species protected under the Japan-Australia and China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreements.  

Criterion 8: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.  ‘Long-term target for the Ramsar List    

97. To have included in the Ramsar List those wetlands which provide important food sources for fishes, or are spawning grounds, nursery areas and/or on their migration path.

98. Many fishes (including shellfishes) have complex life histories, with spawning, nursery and feeding grounds widely separated and long migrations necessary between them. It is important to conserve all those areas that are essential for the completion of a fish’s life cycle if the fish species or stock is to be maintained. The productive, shallow habitats offered by coastal wetlands (including …estuaries, salt marshes…J are extensively used as feeding and spawning grounds and nurseries by fishes with openwater adult stages. These wetlands therefore support essential ecological process s for fish stocks, even if they do not necessarily harbour large adult fish populations themselves.    

99. Furthermore, many fishes in rivers, swamps or lakes spawn in one part of the ecosystem but spend their adult lives in other inland waters or in the sea. It is common for fishes in lakes to migrate up rivers to spawn, and for fishes in rivers to migrate downstream to a lake or estuary, or beyond the estuary to the sea, to spawn. Many swamp fishes migrate from deeper, more permanent waters to shallow, temporarily inundated areas for spawning. Wetlands, even apparently insignificant ones in one part of a river system, may therefore be vital for the proper functioning of extensive river river reaches up- or downstream of the wetland.’

More information and analyses are required to determine if the wetland satisfies this criterion, as enunciated by Guidelines 97-99. lt is not proposed to delay nomination of the 100 acre swamp whilst this information is gathered. lf Criterion 8 is found to be satisfied in the future, then the nomination may be updated to include this new information.

The 100 acre swamp as part of a network of Ramsar sites in the Nambucca catchment.  As discussed above, the 100 acre swamp is not Australian large by standards.  However, the wetland has been assessed as satisfying Criterion 1 on its own merits.  The wetland should be nominated with a view to proactively developing a network of wetlands within a single ‘Nambucca catchment Ramsar site’ within the next 5-10 years.  The 100 acre swamp would be the inaugural site within such a complex, with additional nominations developed as other landholders to nominate agreed their wetlands as wetlands of international and manage them .according to the importance wise use principle  Additions to a ‘Nambucca catchment Ramsar site’ occur may conceivably through the nomination of wetlands occurring on a range of land tenures and along the estuary-floodplain continuum.

Such a network of Ramsar sites in the Nambucca catchment would complement those currently being investigated in catchments to the immediate south (Macleay) and north An the medium to long-term would be to establish a (Bellinger). objective in, North Coast Ramsar Wetland Network’ Ramsar sites in by nominating the major North Coast catchments in a and coherent manner. strategic  

Conclusion
The above assessment indicates that the 100 acre satisfies swamp at least one of the eight Ramsar criteria, Criteria 1 , and is hence eligible for listing namely as a wetland of international under the Ramsar Convention. importance  

As the nomination is progressed, potential additional wetland investigated to add to the 100 acre swamp in a Nambucca catchment building Ramsar site.

References  
Department of Land and Water Conservation (2000). Acid management areas, DlPNR, Grafton. The information is Geographical lnformation System maps provided to the NPWS . sulphate soil priority interpreted from   Kingsford, R.T., Brandis, K., Thomas, R., P^, Knowles, E., and Gale, E. Crighton, (2003). The distribution of wetlands in New South Wales. Report prepared for the Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville