World Wetlands Day 2001: Australia - Project Birds in Victoria

16/02/2001

Project BIRDS

projectbird.jpg (45391 bytes)

We invite you to read about a flagship project where community, government and corporate are working together in partnership during World Wetlands Week

What is Project BIRDS?

Project BIRDS (Bayer International Regeneration & Development Scheme) is an innovative partnership between Bayer Australia and Parks Victoria to promote the conservation of migratory shorebird habitat in Western Port. Bayer is sponsoring this unique project with ongoing support from Greening Australia and the local community.

Why is Western Port so important?

Western Port is a wetland of international importance listed under the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands. The Ramsar Convention is an international agreement that promotes conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Established in 1971, the Ramsar Convention was the first international treaty to deal with the conservation of natural resources. On Friday, 2 February 2001, the 123 countries signed on to the Convention are celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Western Port is also part of the East-Asian Australasian Flyway which includes a chain of sites from Siberia in the northern hemisphere to Western Port in Victoria. Western Port is a critical feeding and breeding ground for a large number of migratory shorebirds and provides habitat for up to 10,000 individuals which visit each summer. Western Port is also home for 10,000 local species such as ducks, swans and ibis.

Unfortunately, Western Port is facing problems from pollution, especially dumping of rubbish, weed invasion and inappropriate recreational use from trail bikes and horses. All of these factors combine to pose an immediate threat to the ecological balance of Western Port.

What is Bayer’s Involvement?

Bayer staff, Parks Victoria and Greening Australia have developed strategies to improve the environment at Warneet – a coastal village in Western Port. With support from the Warneet community and Tooradin Primary School a number of improvements will occur over the coming year:

  • Revegetation of the site with native coastal plant species
  • Weed removal and fencing of sensitive areas
  • Construction of low impact walking tracks and boardwalks
  • Interpretative signage explaining this unique wetland ecosystem and key management issues
  • Development of a brochure and education program for schools
  • Field days for Bayer staff, students and community to learn about wetlands in a practical way.

Initiated by Bayer Australia, Parks Victoria and Greening Australia, Project BIRDS focuses on this wetland – specifically as it accommodates some 10,000 migratory waterbirds who stop at Western Port on an annual journey between the southern and northern hemispheres. Western Port is an area of vital importance, an area that Bayer Australia in partnership with Parks Victoria and Greening Australia has decided to help preserve and protect.

These migratory birds, including the Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey-tailed Tattler, breed in Siberia during the northern summer and fly via South-East-Asia to arrive in Australia for the southern summer. Some of these species weigh as little as 30 grams and cover distances greater than 25,000 kms per year.

The mangroves, saltmarsh and intertidal mudflats of Western Port are facing increased pressure from pollution, especially the dumping of rubbish, weed invasion and inappropriate recreational use which is threatening the ecological integrity of the area. Over the years, Western Port has experienced 70% loss of its seagrass areas.

To ensure Western Port remains a viable stopover for these migratory birds, Bayer, in partnership with Parks Victoria and Greening Australia, has committed to, and has been carrying out, a range of activities including shoreline conservation, saltmarsh protection, as well as community education and involvement.

Specific activities completed and continuing include:

  • Exclusion fencing
  • Boardwalk construction
  • Weed removal
  • Planting buffer zones
  • The design and installation of interpretive signage for boardwalk and high use nodes
  • Education programs at the local school (Tooradin Primary) and with the community
  • A website about the project (utilising Park’s Victoria’s existing educational website)

Conservation activities are concentrating on seed collection, weed eradication and planting of native species. Erecting a boardwalk and fencing at the site to protect flora and fauna, as well as interpretative signage to raise awareness, will further assist in preserving this fragile wetland for future generations. Throughout Project BIRDS the community continues to be consulted and invited to participate. Bayer staff and their families have actively participated in community regeneration days and educational activities.

Education is also a vital component of Project BIRDS. Greening Australia recently delivered an educational program, highlighting the value of native vegetation to local students. Below is an outline of what was covered.

Topics covered

Content

Indigenous plants

  • Their importance
  • Species identification
  • Traditional uses

Seeds

  • Reproduction systems of plants
  • Germination process
  • Growing plants from seeds and cuttings

Catchments

  • Concept of salinity
  • Environmental impact of catchments
  • Importance of vegetation cover

Water

  • Its value as a resource
  • How humans effect the water cycle
  • The hydrological cycle

Revegetation

  • Encourage use of indigenous plants
  • Diversity of plant life
  • Develop skills in revegetation

This program shows just how much is involved in protecting an area such as Western Port and why raising awareness through World Wetlands Week is vital to the preservation of the flora and fauna which inhabit it.

During World Wetlands Week, the culmination of months of hard work and community participation allows Project BIRDS to be showcased as an excellent example of a project designed to protect and preserve Ramsar-listed wetlands.

BIRDS in the news

Project BIRDS recently won Education Trust Victoria’s Industry-Education Partnership Award. It was commended as an excellent example of corporate and community Australia working together toward common environmental and educational goals.

Additional information:

Who is Bayer?

Bayer Australia is a local subsidiary of an international, research-based group with major businesses in life sciences, polymers and speciality products. Our commitment to sustainable development and solving environmental issues is evident on a local, regional and global scale.

As part of our commitment to environmental conservation, Bayer has recently sponsored two important initiatives. In 1999 we partnered with the CSIRO to support a preservation project for the Richmond Birdwing butterfly, an endangered native butterfly. And, for the past three years the company has been the major sponsor of the Bayer Solar & Advanced Technology Boat Race. The highlight of the AustralianScience Festival, the race showcases world developments in renewable energy.

Local Action = Global Results

By ensuring conservation of Western Port’s migratory shorebird habitat, the staff of Bayer Australia, together with the local community, are establishing an important platform for continuing biodiversity at this site and throughout the world …… for generations to come.

For further information on Project BIRDS contact Kirsten Impey, Corporate Communications, Bayer Australia on 02 9391 6077, or go to Bayer’s website at www.bayer.com.au.

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