The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP, Federal Member for Murray and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, will attend World Wetlands Day ceremonies at The Wetland Centre, Newcastle, and announce the designation of three new Wetlands of International Importance, as well as extensions for four existing Ramsar sites, in Western Australia. The new sites, effective as of 5 January 2001, are
Becher Point Wetlands (677 ha, 32º23S 115º44E) is a good example of shrub swamps and seasonal marshes that have formed in an extensive sequence of inter-dunal depressions that have arisen from seaward advancement of the coastline over recent millennia, a type of wetland system that is rare in southwestern Australia. Examples of this type of geomorphological sequence in equally good condition and within a protected area are rare world-wide. The series of wetlands within the site exhibits a continuum of development in geomorphology, hydrology and vegetation and is considered to be a unique wetland system in Western Australia, and one of the youngest wetland systems on the Swan Coastal Plain. The sedgelands of the site are included in the national list of threatened ecological communities. Land use within the site is confined to nature conservation, and the surrounding areas are residential. Ramsar site no. 1048.
Right: Becher Point Ramsar site (Photo: Jim Lane)
Lake Gore (4,017 ha, 33º47S 121º29E) is a near-permanent saline lake and part of a downstream system of inter-connected lakes and swamps of various sizes which are intermittently inundated. Lake Gore itself supports the largest known populations of Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricollis (up to one third of the global population) is important for moulting by thousands of Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides and for drought refuge by thousands of ducks and shorebirds, and it supports thousands of Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus (up to 10% of the global population). Uses consist of nature conservation and low-level recreational pursuits. Salinity and water quality are monitored regularly by high school students from Esperance as part of the "Ribbons of Blue" programme. Ramsar site no. 1049.
Muir-Byenup System (10,631 ha, 34º29S 116º43E) comprises a suite of partly inter-connected lakes and swamps of varied size, salinity (saline to fresh), permanence (permanent to seasonal) and substrate (peat and inorganic), in an internally-draining catchment. The open lakes are used for moulting by thousands of Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides and for drought refuge by tens of thousands of other ducks, while the sedge/shrub-dominated swamps support an important population of Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus and three types of nationally vulnerable orchids. Vegetation communities of the sites wet flats are among the few remaining in non-coastal parts of southwestern Australia and the site has some of the largest natural sedgelands in Western Australia. The site is used for nature conservation, but agriculture, notably grazing of domestic sheep and cattle and tree plantations, occurs in adjoining lands. Illegally released feral pigs cause considerable damage to vegetation and soil. Ramsar site no. 1050.
In addition, four existing Ramsar sites in Western Australia, all designated on 7 June 1990, have been significantly expanded:
Ord River floodplain (15º15'S 128º22'E) , a large system of river, seasonal creek, tidal mudflat and floodplain wetlands that supports extensive stands of mangroves important for salt-water crocodiles and a large number and diversity of waterbirds, has been extended from 102,000 to 141,453 hectares.
Peel-Yalgorup system (32º49'S 115º42'E), a large system of shallow estuary and saline, brackish and freshwater lakes that is used by tens of thousands of waterbirds, including large numbers of migrant shorebirds from the northern hemisphere, has been expanded from 21,000 to 26,530 hectares. The site is one of very few in the world where living thrombolites (a type of microbialite, superfically resembling stromatolites) occur in hypersaline water.
Toolibin Lake (32º55'S 117º36'E), the last large, Casuarina obesa-dominated wetland, with mostly living trees, in the inland agricultural area of southwestern Australia, has been extended from 437 to 493 hectares.
Vasse-Wonnerup system (33º37'S 115º25'E), an extensive, shallow, nutrient-enriched wetland system with widely varying salinities, has been expanded from 740 to 1,115 hectares.