This section provides guidance on how to undertake on ground management actions to rehabilitate ecosystem health for native fishes. It is important to involve the community in on ground management interventions such as re-snagging and riparian rehabilitation and to celebrate milestone achievements throughout the life of the demonstration reach.
The Whole of Life Plan (see Planning Pillar) should have identified the management interventions to be undertaken (e.g. riparian rehabilitation, alien fish management, fish passage restoration) and the sequence in which they are to be undertaken. Ideally all management interventions would be undertaken simultaneously throughout the demonstration reach. In reality this is not possible and interventions must be planned over a number of years in relation to the availability of resources and funds.
The first steps are to:
- Undertake an assessment of the current condition of the reach and the existing threats to ecosystem health.
- Document the necessary steps (actions) to mitigate each threat.
- The broad community and major stakeholders should be engaged to identify shared goals for the reach.
- Actions should be prioritised on both biological and community needs (this builds a shared ownership of the project).
- Consult with appropriate experts to design how and where the intervention will be implemented, what the resource and cost requirements are likely to be and a cost benefit analysis.
- Consult with jurisdictional agencies to determine the legislative and administrative constraints.
A works program can then be drawn up, scheduling the management actions over a period of time (e.g. 3 years) and the funds and resources required. When drawing up the works program it is important to be fully cognisant of all the issues that may arise including access to suitable contractors, ongoing maintenance costs, legislative requirements etc. The program has to be realistic given the expected availability of funds and resources but the interventions must be of sufficient scale that they are likely to have a measurable impact on native fishes. It is also vital that the works program and the biological monitoring and evaluation program are planned together and properly coordinated.
There are number of management interventions that have been used to rehabilitate degraded rivers throughout Australia and a number of these, together with some new innovative approaches have been trailed at existing demonstration reaches. Broad guidelines and examples of the more common interventions are provided. However, again the reader is urged to seek expert advice on these interventions as they pertain to their particular circumstances.
- A works program should be drawn up to schedule the management interventions and outline the resources and funding requirements. This works program and the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan must be properly coordinated.
- The re-introduction of large woody debris (snags) should be based on the natural load of the particular river and should be native to the riparian zone but not sourced from there.
- Options such as re-establishment of aquatic macrophytes, rock rubble etc. should be looked at to provide instream habitat for small bodied fish.
- When rehabilitating the riparian zone, priority should be given to protecting health riparian vegetation by preventing clearing, stock and vehicle access. Rehabilitation of degraded riparian vegetation may be achieved by encouraging natural regeneration (e.g fencing) or active rehabilitation by reseeding or planting of seedlings.
- Many water quality problems may be mitigated by other interventions such as riparian rehabilitation. Identifying water quality issues and their sources requires event based monitoring.
- Rehabilitation of flow regimes through the provision of environmental releases requires coordination with jurisdictional and Commonwealth agencies and may often be beyond the scope of a demonstration reach project.
- Re-establishing fish passage involves identifying the movement requirements of members of the fish community, determining the location of potential barriers and then determining mitigation options with the assistance of biological and engineering expertise.
- Screening of irrigation offtakes may prevent large numbers of native fishes from being lost to the demonstration reach through water diversions. Demonstration reaches are well placed to trial preliminary designs of offtake screens developed in NSW by Craig Boys.
- An integrated pest management approach must be taken when dealing with alien fish including the development of a separate management plan.
- Fish stocking should only be undertaken if a need has been established and there are no alternatives, fingerlings must be obtained from a hatchery where there is a recognised quality assurance program and all hatchery released fingerlings should be tagged.
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ACT Government 2010. Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach Implementation Plan. Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra.
Boys, C.A., Lyon, J., Zampatti, B., Norris, A., Butcher, a., Robinson, W. and Jackson, P. 2014. Demonstration Reaches. Looking back whilst moving forward with river rehabilitation under the Native Fish Strategy. Ecological Management and Restoration, 15 (Supplement 1), 67-74.
Rutherfurd, I.D., Jerie, K. and Marsh, N. 2000. A Rehabilitation Manual for Australian Streams, Volumes 1 and 2. Land and Water resources Research and Development Corporation Cooperative research Centre for Catchment Hydrology, Melbourne.
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