The Coorong, the most important waterbird wetland in the Murray-Darling Basin, has been degraded to the point where it is at risk of losing the key elements which make it such an iconic wetland of international importance. On top of a long-term trend in decline due to water extractions, the Coorong, and in particular the South Lagoon, was substantially damaged as during the Millennium Drought. It now contains a fraction of the waterbirds and fish that were measured in the 1980s, and there has been a recent change from an aquatic plant dominated system to an algal dominated system.
The increasing prevalence of filamentous algae in the system is preventing aquatic plants from completing their life-cycle and interfering with the ability of waterbirds to feed on plants and invertebrates in the mudflats. The system is now in a vulnerable state and may have little capacity to absorb continued and cumulative environmental stress as a result of human-induced and climate changes. Given this, the Minister for Environment and Water and the Department for Environment and Water sought the following scientific information from the Goyder Institute for Water Research: • advice on whether the South Lagoon of the Coorong is currently supporting the agreed ecological values as defined by the Ecological Character Description • recommended actions for restoring the agreed ecological values as defined by the updated ecological character description. The purpose of this project is to provide decision-makers with a clear, simple high-level description of the drivers that make the Southern Lagoon of the Coorong such a unique and valuable ecological system.
The description will consider the internal dynamics of the system and the interplay with the River Murray, Southern Ocean and Upper South East, as well as the role of the Coorong in the broader landscape in terms of supporting populations of migratory birds. This project will identify key knowledge gaps that currently limit the ability of decision-makers to intervene with confidence to shift the ecosystem back to the ecological character defined under the Ramsar Agreement.
The review will deliver the following products. • High-level description of the character and drivers for the South Lagoon ecosystem for 1980s and currently. • Expert advice on whether the South Lagoon is currently supporting agreed ecological values. • Recommendations on what drivers need to be addressed so that the South Lagoon supports the agreed ecological values. • Recommendations on the science that is required to support the future management of the region. The outputs will provide clear guidance to governments and the community to make decisions regarding the future actions that are required to maintain the values of this important cultural, ecological and economically valuable site into the future.