MURRAY FUTURES: COORONG, LOWER LAKES &
MURRAY MOUTH RECOVERY PROJECT
MANAGEMENT ACTION 12 RUPPIA TRANSLOCATION
Implementation Plan v2
Table of Contents
1. Ruppia Translocation ... 3
1.1 Background ... 3
1.2 Project Overview and Aim ... 3
2. Governance ... 5
2.1 Project Advisory Group ... 5
2.2 Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners ... 5
2.3 Coorong National Park ... 5
3. Planning ... 6
3.1 Baseline Condition ... 6
3.2 Recent Distribution Survey ... 6
3.3 Phase 1 Research ... 7
3.4 Site Selection & Mapping ... 8
3.5 Approvals ... 11
4. Objectives and Targets ... 12
4.1 Short Term Objective (1-2years) ... 12
4.2 Medium Term Objective (5 years) ... 12
4.3 Long Term Objective (15 years) ... 13
5. Translocation Method ... 14
5.1 Seed Sediment Collection ... 14
5.2 Planting ... 15
6. Risk Management ... 20
7. Stakeholder Engagement ... 20
8. Compliance Monitoring ... 23
9. References ... 25
10. Appendix ... 26
10.1 Ruppia Translocation Project Workflow Diagram... 27
10.2 Ruppia Project Advisory Group Terms of Reference ... 28
10.3 Statement of Commitment with Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority ... 32
10.4 Summary Assessment of potential impacts under EPBC Act ... 43
10.5 Seed Sediment Collection Plan 2014 ... 53
10.6 Seed Sediment Preparation and Delivery Plan 2014 ... 57
10.7 Ruppia Translocation Planting Plan 2014 ... 61
10.8 Ruppia Translocation Project Risk Assessment Table ... 71
10.9 Residents Letter Advising Ruppia Translocation Work ... 75
1. Ruppia Translocation
Conditions in the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region declined dramatically as a result of drought and unprecedented low inflows from the Murray River between 2006 and 2010. Declining water levels and excessive salinity in the Coorong led to the decline of the formerly dominant Ruppia megacarpa in the North Lagoon, and Ruppia tuberosa in the South Lagoon.
Ruppia spp. are the key primary producers in the Coorong lagoons, providing food (foliage, turions, seeds) for waterbirds, and habitat for fish (in particular small-mouthed hardyheads) and invertebrates (including chironomids). The Ruppia tuberosa/chironomid/hardyhead system historically supported high abundances of a variety of waterbirds, which helped contribute to the Coorong, and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert site being recognised as a Ramsar wetland of international importance.
The health of the Coorong ecosystem dramatically declined since 2004. In particular:
Ruppia tuberosa which was once widespread in the South Lagoon, with Ruppia tuberosa beds occupying in excess of 2000ha, has rapidly disappeared;
The Ruppia tuberosa/chironomid/hardyhead system has become virtually absent form the Coorong South Lagoon;
The Ruppia tuberosa/chironomid/hardyhead system has shifted northward and exists over a small area of the North Lagoon;
Ruppia megacarpa has become functionally extinct from the North Lagoon since some time after the mid-1980s.
The absence of an extensive area of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong reduces the ability to support waterbird populations during drought, and migratory waders that rely on the Coorong in their non-breeding season.
Project Overview and Aim
The Ruppia Translocation management action forms part of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) Recovery Project. The CLLMM Recovery Project is funded by the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative, delivered through the South Australian Government’s Murray Futures Program.
The Ruppia Translocation management action aims to restore Ruppia species to the Coorong to improve the CLLMM Site’s ecological character and provide long-term environmental benefit to the ecosystem. Funding for the management action was compliant but conditional and required certain environmental triggers to be met before the management action could proceed. These triggers included:
Coorong South Lagoon target salinities of 60-100gm/L and water levels are reached and maintained for long enough to allow Ruppia to successfully flourish;
Coorong North Lagoon target salinities are reached and maintained long enough to allow Ruppia megacarpa and/or Ruppia tuberosa to successfully flourish.
Project triggers will be reviewed every year of the project to assess suitability to proceed in any given project year as per work flow diagram (Appendix 10.1).
In December 2012, conditional triggers were met for Phase 2 translocation of Ruppia tuberosa to be undertaken in 2013 as;
Monitoring and Research investigations since 2009 have informed a strategy to re- establish the Ruppia tuberosa in the South Lagoon. (Paton et al 2011)
Salinity in the South Lagoon has returned to within 60-100g/L (Webster 2012)
Improved water conditions suitable for Ruppia growth have returned, however due to the severely depleted seed bank, populations did not naturally
recolonised on a large scale in 2012. (Frahn et al 2012)
In December 2013, conditional triggers were met for Phase 3 translocation of Ruppia tuberosa to be undertaken in 2014 and 2015 as;
Triggers met for Phase 2 still held
Translocation outcomes conducted in Phase 2 were successful Project Aims
The restoration of Ruppia species to the Coorong to improve the CLLMM Site’s ecological character and provide long-term environmental benefit to the ecosystem.
The key deliverables are:
Deliver a reintroduction strategy for Ruppia
Undertake large scale translocation of Ruppia species in the Coorong
This implementation plan outlines the reintroduction strategy employed in 2013-2014 and the proposed method for 2015.
The main decision making and formal governance arrangements for the Ruppia Translocation Project are within the broader CLLMM Project delivered within the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR). In addition there are three specific advisory arrangements as outlined below.
Project Advisory Group
A Project Advisory Group was established in December 2012 to endorse major decisions and provide advice with regards to planning, operational delivery, integration, and general project matters to the Project Manager.
DEWNR CLLMM staff
Project management, expert input, financial management, statutory and regulatory approvals, risk management
DEWNR Science, Knowledge and Management staff
State Herbarium Chief Botanist, expert input, restoration population dynamics, monitoring and planning
DEWNR River Murray Operations staff
Collaboration of monitoring and environmental watering bids
University of Adelaide School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Environmental monitoring, monitoring of translocation trials and expert input
South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) Environmental monitoring, aquatic botany expert input A copy of the terms of reference is provided in Appendix 10.2.
Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners
A key project partner are the Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners, as represented through the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. Regular engagement through a CLLMM Ngarrindjeri Working Group has been defined and formalised through a Ruppia Translocation Project Statement of Commitment.
A copy of the Statement of Commitment is provided in Appendix 10.3.
Coorong National Park
Catch up meetings are held at least twice a year between the Project Officer and Coorong National Park staff on site in the Coorong. This ensures suitable consultation, approvals and local expert input regarding work to be conducted within the Coorong National Park.
According to the most recent bathymetry data, there is potential for between 1800 and 2500 hectares of Ruppia tuberosa habitat in the South Lagoon under ideal water quality conditions across the range of 0.2 to -0.4 meters AHD. 2000 hectares is used for the purposes of this plan to allow for variation in mudflat sediment types as not all are suitable.
A monitoring program established in July 1998 by The University of Adelaide has documented significant changes in the distribution and abundance of Ruppia tuberosa within the Coorong. This 15-year program has tracked the progressive decline of Ruppia tuberosa from the southern end of the Coorong South Lagoon northwards. The program also monitored the establishment of Ruppia tuberosa in the middle of the Coorong North Lagoon as the salinity increased. However the return of freshwater flows in 2010 resulted in significant reductions in the Coorong North Lagoon population.
The winter 2012 report (Paton & Bailey 2013) found:
the percentage of samples with Ruppia shoots significantly declined to the point of being absent in the Coorong South Lagoon from 2008-2010 (Figure 3, Page 9);
some Ruppia tuberosa did re-appear at the northernmost monitoring point in the Coorong South Lagoon at Villa dei Yumpa (present in 32% of core samples in 2011 and 38% in 2012), but not further south despite similar salinities. This reappearance indicates the ability of the plant to grow in the current salinities if there is available seed bank in the sediment. However the seed bank at Villa dei Yumpa, while better than the other sites, is still extremely low and with continued suitable conditions will take a very long time to recolonise a substantial area of the Coorong;
how the seed bank has been reduced in the Coorong South Lagoon since 1998, with some remaining at the northernmost point where the response in 2011 was seen. It should be noted that the researchers found much of the very small amount of remaining seed found in the Coorong South Lagoon is no longer viable; and
the seed bank in the Coorong South Lagoon is significantly (100 fold) lower than the healthy comparison site at Lake Cantara.
The 2012/13 monitoring provides clear evidence that Ruppia tuberosa has not 'naturally recolonised' on a large scale in the Coorong. The rate of natural colonisation will be reassessed in 2014 and form part of the annual review process.
Winter monitoring will continue to track the long term sites, with the addition of detailed compliance monitoring at the translocation collection and treatment sites.
Recent Distribution Survey
Since the 2010/11 floods improved the water conditions in the Coorong an additional survey was undertaken outside the long term monitoring sites to assess the current distribution, abundance and biomass of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong South Lagoon. The survey also investigated the validity of local reports of the plant being seen again in the Coorong South Lagoon, with reported sites such as Woods Well being directly targeted.
While the long term monitoring program provides excellent temporal datasets, the December 2011 distribution survey (Frahn et al., 2012) investigated any significant response to the improved conditions outside of the monitoring points. This survey was also conducted by a different research institution to provide an independent view on the condition of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong.
The report found that Ruppia tuberosa was present in the Coorong South Lagoon, but was limited to shallow margins and no reproductive material (flowers or developed turions) were found. Of the seed bank sampled only one viable seed was found indicating an extremely depauperate propagule bank.
Phase 1 Research
Monitoring and research trials undertaking during Phase 1 have increased understanding of the key drivers of Ruppia and trialled potential methods for translocation. From this work the appropriate conditions for Ruppia growth were better established and a reintroduction strategy using seed sediment translocation proposed. The following sections summarise the key drivers important for Ruppia tuberosa, the reintroduction strategies considered and an overview of the translocation approach.
Key Drivers and Plant Dynamics
A combination of monitoring data and results from research trials (including in situ and ex situ experiments) has informed the following understanding of the conditions required for Ruppia tuberosa to flourish in the Coorong:
successful growth occurs in water depths between 0.3-1.0m. Below 0.3m Ruppia performs poorly due to wind and tide changes, however 0.3m appears to be a suitable lateral seiching buffer. The maximum depth is linked to turbidity and minimum light requirements;
target salinity for the Coorong South Lagoon is 60-100 g/L. The plant can survive in lower salinities, however is typically out-competed by other plants, including filamentous green algae. Higher salinities have adverse impacts on overall biomass and reproductive ability;
the duration of the ‘normal annual life-cycle’ for Ruppia tuberosa exploiting the ephemeral mudflats of the Coorong is for the seeds and turions to germinate and sprout when water returns to the exposed mudflats during late autumn and winter. The plants then grow over winter and spring, flower during spring and continue to grow and produce turions post-flowering until water levels retreat (Paton et al., 2011 - p50);
the Coorong is a hydrodynamically unique system and therefore the applicability of research undertaken on other Ruppia species populations is limited; and
Ruppia is the last remaining submerged macrophyte species present in the Coorong. No surrogate species has yet replaced the function of this species or its role in the system.
Suitable Donor Sites
At least two suitable surrogate sites with healthy Ruppia tuberosa populations were identified, Lake Cantara and Lake George.
Trialling Different Methods of Translocation
Three key options for reintroduction were investigated (Paton et al., 2011). An overview of these options, and their relative merit, are provided in Table 1.
Table 1: Summary of Reintroduction Options for Ruppia tuberosa to the Coorong Option for
Live Plant/Shoot Sediment Plugs
Reproductive Materials (turions and stolons)
Description Taking sediment plugs with live shoots from surrogate site in late autumn and plant into the inundated mudflats.
Collecting reproductive materials from surrogate plants which float and letting them disperse in the Coorong.
Collecting seed from sediment in the surrogate site, rolling them into almond sized plugs and then sowing them into the exposed Coorong mudflats over late summer and autumn.
Success of Method in Research Trials (was the plant able to
grow/survive once translocated?)
Wave action scouring plugs from their original placement within 1-2 days.
Fixing plants with wire cages and stakes proved slightly more successful, but labour intensive.
Currents and wave actions dispersed the materials to varied locations, some sub- optimal for growth.
Difficult to track progress/success.
Trials in 2010 and 2011 were successful with seeds able to germinate and spread into surrounding sediment at different locations in the Coorong.
Availability of Materials from Surrogate Site(s)
The proposed surrogate site at Lake Cantara has abundant live shoots germinate in late autumn. (Paton & Bailey 2012, p7)
Most turions and stolons develop late in the season but would be needed for translocation early in the season.
The proposed surrogate site at Lake Cantara has a strong seed bank reserve.
(Paton & Bailey 2012, p10)
Operational Flexibility (timing limitations, contingency etc)
Must be kept moist and transplanted in short time frame.
Potential for currents and wave action to disperse the ‘floating fragments’ to sub-optimal locations.
Seed can be stored dry across years.
Translocation can occur when mud flats exposed over late autumn and winter One treatment at any given location can provide two years of germination as not all seeds set every year.
Planters working in water 30-100cm deep.
Need to secure plugs with cages and stakes to ground.
Finding and collecting turions and stolons will be time consuming, however translocation simple as materials float.
Planters working on exposed mudflats, but need to actively sow seed plugs into top layer of sediment so seed is not washed away by wave action.
Site Selection & Mapping
Sites for translocation were selected in a phased approach including desktop, advisory, site visits and approvals. Criteria for suitable site selection included;
Large surface area (gentle slope) within the target -0.4 to 0.2m AHD range
Relatively sheltered bay for reduced wave and wind disturbance to establishing Ruppia meadow
Existing, suitable access track for both practicality and avoiding damage to terrestrial native vegetation within the Coorong National Park
Suitable benthic surface of mud, sand and clay with minimal rock and/or shell grit.
Evidence of any Ruppia sp. coming back naturally, including baseline seed density.
Suitable, pre-approved site locations were then prioritised with the assistance of the Project Advisory Group for the best ecological outcomes, ensuring suitable spacing of sites within the Coorong South Lagoon where predicted salinity would be idea for Ruppia growth.
High Resolution Bathymetry
High resolution bathymetry was sourced at multiple sites within the Coorong South Lagoon to allow detailed mapping to the nearest 5cm for purposes of Ruppia Translocation. Figure 1 shows an overview output of the depth range of interest between -0.4 to 0.2m AHD.
Figure 1: Ruppia Planting optimised depth range for Coorong South Lagoon.
Water Level and Water Quality
The largest constraint for this project is the water quality, quantity and timing in the Coorong which impacts on Ruppia growth. This constraint is managed by using water modelling predictions and detailed bathymetry mapping to translocate across the full extent of Ruppia healthy range of requirements. To manage the risk of in accuracy from the predictive modelling, the density of planting will be concentrated in the middle of this range.
The Coorong is a unique and dynamic system with the local climate, sea level, Murray Mouth openness, flows over barrages and upper south east all impacting water quality and level.
Seasonal sea level fluctuations inundate mudflats and Ruppia tuberosa beds in winter (regardless of flow conditions) and expose them in summer. Inundation of at least six months is required to permit Ruppia tuberosa to flower and set seed so that the population is added to and remains self sustaining. Higher salinities appear to slow the plant rate of growth which means the greater the salinity the greater the duration that water levels need to be maintained to permit the plant to flower and set seed (Paton & Bailey 2012). Therefore 6-8 months is recommended to be the target duration of suitable conditions for Ruppia tuberosa.
A longer term salinity forecast (Figure 2) indicates salinity curves remaining below 100g/L until 2015 if barrage flows remain above zero. Barrage flows above zero are anticipated in 2014 and 2015 through the 3,200 g/L annual allocation to the river through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, additional environmental flows and potential for unregulated (natural) flows.
Figure 2: Simulations of salinity averaged over the South Lagoon for 2012-2015 for 16 barrage flow combinations. The dashed line denotes a salinity of 100 g/L. Key denotes average g/L per day flow over the barrages during the historic years noted, where Zero = 0 g/L, 2003 = 1.4 g/L, 1935 = 8.6 g/L and 1904 = 3.9 g/L, (Webster 2012)
Seasonal water levels in the Southern Ocean appear to have the most significant effect on minimum Coorong water levels due to the relatively modest barrage flows expected every summer resulting from delivery constraints and availability of water.
Additional delivery of environmental water would further enhance water levels (both minimum level and duration beyond January) and maximise support to existing populations.
Water levels were around 0.5-0.6 m AHD in July 2012 and remained above 0.5 m AHD until around mid October 2012. From around mid-October water levels fell steadily and by December 2012 were around 0-0.2 m AHD (Figure 3). This water level pattern provided 7-8 months from germination of ideal conditions for Ruppia tuberosa to complete its life cycle which is within the 6-9 month target. These conditions were
positively assisted by environmental flows, extending the range and reducing the water level drop off in summer. Through a combination of unregulated (natural) flows and environmental water it is anticipated suitable water levels are likely for the remainder of the project, to 2015.
As outlined above, there is a high probability the South Lagoon will meet target salinities and water levels in 2013-15 suitable for Ruppia tuberosa to flourish.
Figure 3: Average salinity and water levels for the South Lagoon from July 2012 to May 2013 (Data from The Living Murray Icon Site monitoring programs)
It is a requirement of the funding deed between the Australian Government and South Australian Government for the CLLMM Recovery Project that all approvals are attained prior to any project implementation.
As the key landholder, approval to conduct works in the Coorong National Park was received from the South East Natural Resources Management regional office of DEWNR in December 2012.
Aboriginal heritage approvals for all (collection and translocation) were received in February 2013 as per the Statement of Commitment (Appendix 10.3).
A self-assessment of potential impacts to matters of National Environmental Significance (NES), protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), was undertaken in February 2013. The self-assessment determined that no significant impacts to matters of NES were likely to result from the management action. As such, it was determined that the action did not need to be referred under the Act (Appendix 10.4)
4. Objectives and Targets
Long and short term targets were initially developed by the Ruppia Project Advisory Group in 2012. These were further refined in 2014 and aligned with work and input to the Quantifiable Ecological Objectives developed under the Basin Plan.
As the long term seed density and extent targets are unlikely to be met within the project timeframe we hope to see a trajectory towards this which will be provided in the final years monitoring report.
Short Term Objective (1-2years)
Annual targets for project success are that the seed bank is maintained or increased at treated sites. Also that rate of recovery at treated sites are higher than those in the same subregion of Coorong that are non-treated.
Medium Term Objective (5 years)
To have a self-sustaining population of R. tuberosa in the South Lagoon that is trending towards resilience.
1. Extent of occurrence (distribution)
50km distribution (excluding outliers) north–south direction in the Coorong.
N.B. the distribution is not necessarily exclusive to the south lagoon.
2. Area of occupation at regional level (% of sites)
Every year 80% of sites monitored within the extent of occurrence have R.
tuberosa present in winter and in summer (ideally a minimum of 10 sites should be monitored).
3. Area of occupation at site level (% of cores)
80% of sites have at least 30% cover in winter (to be achieved at the 5 year mark).
4. Abundance (density)
When a core sample has R. tuberosa, there must be an annual average of at least 10 shoots per core when measured in Winter.
5. Reproductive success at site level
There must be a minimum of 50 flower heads per m2 for 50% of the area of occupation (at the site level, item 3) with R. tuberosa. If achieved, this will indicate a self-sustaining population, not necessarily a resilient population.
6. Building resilience (seed bank)
By 2019 there must be at least 2,000 seeds per m2 on the main bed (this is the equivalent of ~8 seeds per core sample). If achieved this target would demonstrate a trend towards resilience, not necessarily a resilient
Long Term Objective (15 years)
To have a population of R. tuberosa in the South Lagoon that has the resilience to deal with 3-4 years of false starts.
1. Area of occupation at site level (% of cores)
50% of sites have at least 60% cover in winter (to be achieved at the 15 year mark).
2. Resilience (seed bank)
By 2029 there must be at least 10,000 seeds per m2 on main bed (this is the equivalent of ~40 seeds per core sample). This target falls short of the seed bank condition present in 1985 at Ramsar listing, however if achieved would likely demonstrate population resilience.
5. Translocation Method
Research trials in Phase 1 determined that seed sediment translocation from surrogate sites is the most effective method to fast track habitat recovery for Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong South Lagoon (Paton et al., 2011). This was also the consensus of attendees at the Ruppia Project Advisory Group held on 14 June 2012.
Seed Sediment Collection
Seed is collected when Lake Cantara is dry (late summer/early autumn). A small excavator is used to scrape the top layer of sediment containing the seeds. Track mats are used to reduce the impact of the excavator as well as reduce the risk of bogging (Figures 4 and 5). The seed is collected in strips, with even-width gaps to promote faster recovery of the Ruppia seed bank in Lake Cantara.
Figure 8 provides an overview map of the collection site at Lake Cantara and the maximum extent of the surface to be harvested over the three years.
Please refer to the 2014 Seed Sediment Collection Plan in Appendix 10.5 for detailed collection methodology and principals.
After collection the sediment is then collected and transported to translocation sites on the Coorong (Figure 5). Please refer to the 2014 Seed Sediment Preparation and Delivery Plan in Appendix 10.7 for detailed methodology and principals.
Figure 5: Minimal scrape mark created by seed sediment collection at Lake Cantara, March 2013 (Photo: K. Ryan) Figure 4: Excavator using track mats
on lake bed at Lake Cantara, March 2013 (Photo: K. Ryan)
Figure 7: Exposed mudflat in the South Lagoon Coorong before treatment at Woods Well, March 2013 (Photo: A.
Watt) Figure 6: Pile of seed sediment being
prepared and transported by Ngarrindjeri at Lake Cantara, March 2013 (Photo: K. Ryan)
Planting is carried out when mudflats around the edge of the Coorong South Lagoon are exposed (Figure 7). As Ruppia grows best when water levels are between 0.3 m and 1.0 m, the planting sites are chosen based on water level predictions. Planting involves lightly agitating the mudflat surface and then scattering the seed sediment.
Deeper sections of mudflats still have shallow water cover even at planting time. For these sections the seed sediment is scattered directly into the water, letting local wave action keep it in place.
Please refer to the 2014 Translocation Planting Plan in Appendix 10.7 for detailed collection methodology and principals. Figures 9-11 provides an overview of the translocation sites and the maximum extent of the surface to be treated over the three years.
Figure 8: Lake Cantara, Seed Sediment Collection Site Extents per Translocation Year
Figure 9: Coorong Ruppia Translocation Sites by Year, Map 1 of 3
Figure 10: Coorong Ruppia Translocation Sites by Year, Map 2 of 3
Figure 11: Coorong Ruppia Translocation Sites by Year, Map 3 of 3
6. Risk Management
Risk is inherent in any project. All projects have some degree of uncertainty due to the assumptions associated with them and the environment in which they are executed. Project risks cannot be eliminated entirely, but many of them can be anticipated and reduced.
The risk management plan defines safeguards to minimise the probability that certain risks will materialise and contingent actions to deal with the risks if they do occur.
All projects should be subject to a risk assessment. The level of analysis undertaken as part of the risk assessment should reflect the complexity and criticality of the project to the achievement of the project objectives.
In December 2012 a Risk Mitigation Plan was written using the Australian Standard 4360 to identify the risk factors and subsequently develop risk management strategies to reduce these risks for the Ruppia Translocation Project.
Appendix 10.8 records the all risks identified and the mitigation strategies and actions for extreme, high and medium risks as they affect the Ruppia Translocation Project.
7. Stakeholder Engagement
Objectives, Target Audiences and Key Messages
The communication and community engagement activities aim to:
continue to promote that the government is working with the best available science to improve the CLLMM site’s ecological character
involve the Ngarrindjeri in implementing the project to help foster the cultural importance of the Coorong region and the role of Ruppia species
continue to inform, educate, and engage with the community about the importance of Ruppia, and to build up a strong seed bank to better cope with water level variability as a result of flood and drought.
Stakeholder Interest in project
Ngarrindjeri community Active involvement, community support and awareness Input into and approval of stories and messages
Membership of Project Advisory Group Local Residents around
Coorong, particularly South Lagoon
Community support and awareness
Professional fishermen Community support and awareness Tourists and visitors to
Information and awareness Scientific Community,
particularly aquatic plant and water bird experts
Information and awareness of restoration efforts
Broader CLLMM region
community Community support and awareness
The South Australian Government, through the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources’ Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth
(CLLMM) Program, is working to restore an aquatic plant - Ruppia - to the Coorong.
Ruppia is a key aquatic plant once dominant in the Coorong. It is an
important food source for water birds and habitat for fish and invertebrates.
The project will involve translocating seed from nearby surrogate sites to the Coorong.
The project will start in the Northern end of the South Lagoon, in the Parnka and Hacks Points region.
The project is part of the South Australian Government’s Murray Futures program, funded by the Australian Government’s Water for the Future strategy.
The best available science and local knowledge has been used to develop the project, including extensive discussions with:
o Associate Professor David Paton from the University of Adelaide o the Ngarrindjeri – the Traditional Owners of the Land.
COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT TACTICS
A community relations program will be established to enable local community involvement and participation in the project. This will be supported by a range of public relation activities to promote the project and its achievements.
Involve the Ngarrindjeri in planning and implementing the project to foster
environmental and cultural stewardship of the area.
Engage through Statement of Commitment
Engage through Project Advisory Group meetings
Ensure local residents are aware of work about
to commence, particularly shack owners Letter drop to all shacks and residents adjacent to translocation treatment sites (see Appendix 10.9 for letter example).
Work with the Community Advisory Panel to ensure consistent messages about the project are being communicated to the public
Work closely with CAP to ensure key relationships within the site are
maintained and current information is disseminated
Work with Lakes Hub to ensure consistent
messages about the project are communicated to the public
Work closely with Lakes Hub on media and promotion of the project.
Involve fishermen (professional and
recreational) through communication of the design phase of the Project to foster
environmental and cultural stewardship of the area.
Engage through focus groups and/or public meetings.
Develop resources to inform and educate the community about building wetland resilience in the longer term to better cope with water level variability.
Develop project fact sheet/DL brochure to be available in Lakes Hub, Coorong District Council offices and on the DEWNR website including information about how the project is improving the Coorong.
Update brochure as project progresses.
Promote the project achievements and Media releases from Minister/DEWNR at
opportunities for community involvement using
appropriate media channels. project milestones.
Work with partner organisations to identify regular ‘good news stories’ for the media (particularly local Lakelander) highlighting the positive work being undertaken by the government and the community.
DEWNR to liaise with Australian Government re possible
Murray Futures Community update Monthly updates on the project
highlighting the community involvement, including a special profile of the ‘Friends of Meningie’ group.
NRM Research and Innovation Network
Newsletter Prepare scientific article on project.
Newsletter audience includes SA Universities and Research Institutions.
DEWNR website Maintain website content to include
latest progress of the project.
Water for Good News Articles in the quarterly Water for Good News publication (winter, spring, summer 2011)
Wetlands Australia Annual publication by the Australian Government
Internal communication – CLLMM Program and
DEWNR Updates on progress of the project at
CLLMM Program team meetings.
Community update emails circulated to all staff with project updates.
Ochre articles for project achievements EVALUATION
Continue to promote how the government is working with the best available science to improve the CLLMM site’s ecological character.
News releases and media articles released about the project.
Positive media attention presenting accurate information.
Visits to the Murray Futures & CLLMM websites.
Involve the local Ngarrindjeri in implementing the project to help foster cultural importance of the Coorong region and role of Ruppia species.
Feedback from the NRA about how well DEWNR has involved Ngarrindjeri in the project.
Continue to inform, educate, and engage with the community about the importance of Ruppia and building up a strong seed bank to better cope with water level variability as a result of flood and drought.
Feedback from the Lakes Hubs, and the NRA about how well DEWNR has informed,
educated and engaged the community about the importance of Ruppia and the Coorong.
Informal feedback from the community
8. Compliance Monitoring
Compliance monitoring commenced in late June 2013 and includes tracking the planting densities, rate of survival/recovery, impacts at surrogate site and water quality monitoring. Initial inspection of the treatment sites in June 2013 indicated that at the seed has successfully germinated (Figures 13 and 14).
Copies of annual monitoring reports and results are made available on the DEWNR website.
The process of applying the scientific research and monitoring to commercial scale implementation provided the following key learnings and design approach changes during Phase 2. The Project Advisory Group were made aware of these adaptive management changes and were satisfied they did not materially alter project outcomes or objectives.
Collection site planning and approvals for Lake Cantara confirmed that additional collection sites previously considered (e.g. Lake George) are not required. Lake Cantara is physically closest to the Coorong which reduces transport costs, has more than sufficient seed without significantly harming the donor population.
A weight bearing risk assessment on the collection site lake bed found very low weight bearing capacity. Therefore track mats were required for use by the seed collection operator, with a maximum excavator size of 5 tonne to reduce both impact to site by excavator treads and any risk of bogging. The smaller excavator increased the time and cost of seed sediment collection, but led to a very precise, low risk and low impact method.
Instead of small individual sediment plugs (used in the experimental trials), large polypropylene bags were used for transport and deployment. This bulk method was more efficient while still being within safe manual handling requirements as bags were no more than 15 kg in weight.
A public tender process was used to procure planting contracts to test the market for this new project. The work was awarded to two providers to compare their
Figure 14: Young shoots of Ruppia tuberosa at South Lagoon
translocation site Woods Well, June 2013 (Photo: J. Phillips)
Figure 13: Young shoots of Ruppia tuberosa at South Lagoon
translocation site Policemans Point, June 2013 (Photo: K. Ryan)
techniques, work rate and approach. The relative success of these will be assessed through the compliance monitoring.
Site access approval to the Coorong mudflats was only granted for light weight vehicles (e.g. Gators or quad bikes). This significantly increased the planting costs as sediment could only be delivered to the edge of the mudflat sites and then had to be transferred to light weight vehicles to move around the planting site. Multiple trips were required due to lower load capacity of the light weight vehicles. Therefore only 20 ha was planted with seed sediment in 2013 (instead of 30 ha planned).
Feedback on the project was sought from all contractors involved through exit interviews in May 2013 to harness different perspectives and adaptively manage the project techniques and approach. This proved very useful, confirming what worked well and providing some improvement suggestions to consider in 2014. For example weight bearing testing the Coorong mudflat sites to hopefully allow some larger vehicles safe access to tip seed sediment directly onsite. This would significantly lower costs and increase the total areas translocated.
Brock M. A. (1982) Biology of the salinity tolerant genus Ruppia in saline lakes in South Australia. I. Morphological variation within and between species and ecophysiology. Aquatic Botany, Vol. 13: 219-248.
DEWNR (2012) Ruppia Translocation Technical Assessment of Conditional Requirements
DEWNR (2013) South Lagoon Salinity Reduction Scheme Technical Assessment of Conditional Requirements.
Frahn K., Nicol J. and Strawbridge A (2012) Current distribution and abundance of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2012/000074-1.
SARDI Research Report Series No. 615. 22pp.
Paton D. C. and Bailey C. (2013) Annual monitoring of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong region of South Australia, July 2012. The University of Adelaide, Final Report of Department Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
Paton D. C., McKillop T. and Bailey C. (2011) Developing ecological knowledge to inform the re-establishment of Ruppia tuberosa in the southern Coorong, The University of Adelaide, Final Report for Department Environment and Natural Resources.
Phillips, W. and Muller, K. (2006) Ecological Character Description: Coorong, Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Wetland of International Importance. SA Department for Environment and Heritage, Adelaide.
Rogers D. J. and Paton D. C. (2009) Changes in the distribution and abundance of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong, CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship, Canberra.
Webster I. (2012) Forecast Modelling of Water Level and Salinity Response of the Coorong 2012:2015: Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship.
Whipp R. (2010) Decline of Ruppia species in the Coorong lagoons, SA, Australasian Plant Conservation: Journal of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Vol.
19, No.1: 25-26
10.1 Ruppia Translocation Project Workflow Diagram 10.2 Ruppia Project Advisory Group Terms of Reference 10.3 Statement of Commitment with Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority
10.4 Summary Assessment of potential impacts under EPBC Act 10.5 Seed Sediment Collection Plan 2014
10.6 Seed Sediment Preparation and Delivery Plan 2014 10.7 Ruppia Translocation Planting Plan 2014
10.8 Ruppia Translocation Project Risk Assessment Table
10.9 Residents Letter Advising Ruppia Translocation Work
Ruppia Translocation Project Workflow Diagram
*Conditions favourable for planning and collection
Ruppia Project Advisory Group Terms of Reference
RUPPIA TRANSLOCATION PROJECT ADVISORY GROUP Terms of Reference
Last Updated: November 2013
To seek input and advice from key scientists and project managers with regards to planning, operational delivery, trigger conditions and general project matters to progress a large-scale translocation project for Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong.
The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) Ruppia Translocation Project Advisory Group (PAG) was established under CLLMM corporate governance arrangements to advise management and delivery of the CLLMM Program Ruppia Translocation Project.
Reporting to the Senior Project Officer, the Project Advisory Group will provide technical advice and feedback on the delivery of the Ruppia Translocation Project.
The Advisory Group will provide input into the Ruppia Translocation project through:
Reviewing trigger conditions to support action
Investigating key drivers and reproductive cycle
Input to proposed methodology and techniques to progress large scale translocation, including risk identification and development of targets
Identification of translocation sites and selection process
Identification of monitoring requirements Further the Working Group will:
Annually review large-scale translocation of Ruppia tuberosa in the Coorong and recommendations for improvements
Annually reviews trigger conditions and recommendations for future work.
The Project Advisory Group will comprise:
Agency Name Expertise
DEWNR (CLLMM) Liz Barnett Chair
Estuarine and program management DEWNR (CLLMM) Katherine Ryan Executive Officer
Environmental project management DEWNR (CLLMM) Jason Higham Site management knowledge
DEWNR (SMK) Daniel Rogers Ecosystems population dynamics, restoration strategies and Coorong.
DEWNR / University of Adelaide
Michelle Waycott Biology restoration and population dynamics, particularly for seagrass and halophytic macrophytes.
DEWNR (RMO) Adrienne Frears Site water delivery management knowledge University of
David Paton Ruppia and bird species condition and ecology in the Coorong
SARDI Jason Nicol Aquatic plant ecology
Representative from DEWNR South East Region (eg Ranger) and/or the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority may attend as required.
The Manager, Environmental Investigations and Management, CLLMM, DEWNR will chair the meetings. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that Advisory Group meetings are run in accordance with the agreed meeting procedures and all required outcomes are achieved. The Senior Project Officer, CLLMM, DEWNR is Executive Officer and Deputy Chair.
c. Proxies to Meetings
Members may nominate a proxy or representative to attend meetings in their absence, with approval of the Chair.
d. Quorum Requirements
A minimum of four Advisory Group members, where at least two are non-CLLMM staff is required for a meeting quorum. Members may attend via teleconference.
Legal, technical or other representatives of the agency or State may, by invitation of the Chair, attend an Advisory Group meeting either as observers or as presenters of relevant material. Observers may be asked by the Chair to absent themselves from any discussion of the Advisory Group.
6. Proceedings of the Working Group a. Agenda
The target for distribution of the Advisory Group agenda will be three working days prior to the scheduled meeting.
The outcomes of Advisory Group meetings will be in the form of a Decision and Action Log which will identify decisions made and also identify action items, including nomination of responsible persons in respect of those action items, and target completion dates for the actions. The target for distribution of the Decision and Action Log, including attachments, will be ten working days following each meeting. The identified action items will be monitored and reported on at the next meeting.
c. Executive Officer Support
The Senior Project Officer will be responsible for administering the meetings and providing executive support for the Advisory Group.
d. Frequency of Meetings
Meeting of the Advisory Group will be scheduled bi-annually but may be held more frequently if required. Urgent matters for consideration may be distributed to Advisory Group members for consideration out of session.
e. Records Management
Records of the Advisory Group will be maintained in accordance with the State Records Act 1997. The Project Officer will ensure that appropriate records of Advisory Group meetings, decisions and resolutions are maintained.
f. Meeting Recommendations
Advisory Group recommendations should be made by consensus. All reasonable effort will be made to reach agreement by the Advisory Group. However, should agreement not be reached, the dispute resolution process will be triggered.
g. Dispute Resolution
Where agreement cannot be reached within the Advisory Group, a submission must be presented to the Program Manager, Major Projects in the first instance (subject to delegated authorities) and then to CLLMM Coordinating Committee for consideration, analysing the relative merits and risks of the options under consideration. If the CLLMM Coordinating Committee still cannot reach agreement, then the matter shall be referred to the Project Sponsor for
consideration (who may elect to refer the matter to the CLLMM Program Steering Committee).
Members are expected to maintain appropriate levels of confidentiality of Advisory Group discussions and of information made available to them.
Members should be aware that all written material associated with the Advisory Group is subject to the relevant State and Commonwealth Freedom of Information legislation and may be made available to the public.
b. Intellectual Property
‘Intellectual property’ developed by the Advisory Group will be owned by the Government of South Australia, unless it can be demonstrated that background Intellectual Property exists that is owned by another party.
The Advisory Group will operate to December 2015 to oversee the Ruppia Translocation Project timeframe.
A review of the roles, responsibilities and membership of the Advisory Group will be undertaken in November 2014.
The Advisory Group may be dissolved if the CLLMM Program undergoes a significant shift in governance which renders the role of the Advisory Group redundant.
Statement of Commitment with Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority
Statement of Commitment
CLLMM RUPPIA TRANSLOCATION PROJECT Between the
Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority Inc.
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
Version Date Author Summary of Changes
1 3/9/2012 L. Sutherland Provided example SOC from the Vegetation Program.
2 14/9/2012 K. Goss Adapted Vegetation Program SOC to reflect Ruppia project specific information
3 5/12/2012 K. Goss Updated to include draft Activities section as discussed and developed at Working Group meeting on 4/12/12
4 15/10/2013 K. Ryan Updated to include monitoring and interpretation opportunities and refine deadlines.
1. Guiding Principle
Ngarrindjeri have a long-term aspiration to be centrally involved in development, planning and implementation of natural and cultural resource management in the CLLMM region. DEWNR acknowledges its responsibilities under Ramsar Guidelines to incorporate cultural values into Ramsar site planning and management and commitments made under the Kungun Ngarrindjeri Yunnan Agreement (KNYA).
The Parties acknowledge that Ngarrindjeri hold a depth of ecological knowledge and understanding of the CLLMM region and that Ngarrindjeri management has shaped the regions ecological character. The Parties acknowledge that vegetation management planning (including revegetation and pest management) in the region aimed to restore the ecological character must acknowledge and seek to incorporate Ngarrindjeri knowledge and understanding in an appropriate way. This Statement of Commitment (SOC) establishes an equitable framework to support appropriate engagement with Ngarrindjeri in the development of the CLLMM Ruppia Translocation seed collection and translocation site plans that also protects Ngarrindjeri Cultural Knowledge.
2.1 Ruppia Translocation
The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) leads the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) Program which addresses the issues at the site and its long term recovery during a time of ecosystem stress. The CLLMM Program aspires to achieving its goal of ‘a healthy resilient wetland of international importance’ and a number of ecological, cultural and community objectives. The CLLMM Program seeks Ngarrindjeri involvement in these aspirations through the Ngarrindjeri Partnerships Project.
Ruppia Translocation is a key project of the CLLMM region recovery. Ruppia is an aquatic plant and is the key primary producer in the Coorong lagoons, providing food (foliage, turions, seeds) for waterbirds, and habitat for fish and invertebrates. It has important cultural and community value in aesthetics, well being and other ecosystem services.
Over 2004-2010, low flows and increasing salinities caused the health of the Coorong ecosystem declined dramatically with the population of Ruppia virtually absent from the Coorong South Lagoon. Water levels and salinity have since improved, however due to the severely depleted seed bank, Ruppia has not responded to the improved conditions. Large scale translocation of seed sediments from surrogate sites is therefore proposed to assist in restoring Ruppia to the Coorong.
Implementation of a translocation project will involve the development of a number of plans;
o Overall Implementation Strategy
o Seed collection plans from surrogate site
o Translocation site plans (specific site detail for translocation to be applied)