At the time of European settlement, the wetlands of the Clarence River floodplain sustained considerably higher numbers of waterbirds than at present. These wetlands were valuable natural resources for the local Aboriginal people with ducks, geese and swans easily hunted using traditional methods. European settlers displaced the local Aboriginal people from the floodplain in the 1800s, although through to the 1960s waterbirds were common food items for local residents with hunting being a popular sporting pursuit. European settlement dramatically altered waterbird habitat through the clearing of native vegetation, the introduction of farming and grazing, and hydrological alteration. The hydrology of the floodplain wetlands was altered initially by manually-constructed shallow drains but later, and more drastically, by a flood mitigation scheme that involved the construction of deep drains and channels affecting not only surface, but also sub-surface, hydrology. The subsequent ecological impacts included a dramatic decline in waterbird numbers and depletion of functional habitat. Only very recently have there been methodical efforts to restore locally important habitat, albeit incidentally to other restoration goals. On-going restoration efforts have focussed on modifying hydrological regimes on agricultural land for the control of acid sulphate discharge and creation of fish passage, although most recently a wetland area was purchased by government for nature conservation purposes.
Waterbirds and their habitat on the Clarence River floodplain: a history
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Adam Smith; Waterbirds and their habitat on the Clarence River floodplain: a history. Australian Zoologist 1 January 2011; 35 (3): 788–809. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2011.031
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