The Murray-Darling Basin is one of the most important places for birds in Australia. It is home to many migratory and breeding waterbirds and supports multiple threatened species including the Endangered Australasian Bittern and Australian Painted Snipe. However, it is the most modified basin in Australia, with a long history of diverting water for human use. As a result, there has been an ongoing decline of the health of these wetlands and in turn, a reduction in suitable waterbird habitat. The delivery of environmental water has become critical to the ongoing health of many wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin, such as the Macquarie Marshes.
Since 2012, the delivery of environmental water in the Murray-Darling Basin has been guided by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan - a historic step towards holistic water management, striving to strike a balance across environmental, social and economic demands on the river system. However, the plan committed only a mere fraction of the environmental water needed to restore and sustain the Basin's wildlife and ecology. As a result, the birds that require this Basin for life support are now facing a crisis. Furthermore, changes to the Plan have been considered, with environmental water volume in the Basin at risk of being further reduced. This will have damaging effects on the Australasian Bittern and Australian Painted Snipe, and many other bird species.
Birdlife is calling on the Australian Government to deliver the full amount of environmental water committed in plan on time.
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Photo credit: Daryl Albertson, Peter Gower & Chris Tzaros