Wetland riparian vegetation structure of natural wetlands as guidelines to dredge pond rehabilitation, south-western Australia

Eddie van Etten (MiWER), Clint McCullough (MiWER), Mark Lund (MiWER), Mark Gell (KSS)

What is the vegetation structure of typical seasonal wetlands of the Kemerton region?

Silica sand mining by Kemerton Silica Sand Pty. Ltd. in the Kemerton region, south-western Australia, is followed by rehabilitation of mined lands into conservation areas after ore extraction is complete. Successful rehabilitation to a natural structure is involving first studies into what type of wetland (e.g., wetland riparian vegetation structure) is typical of the area, and hence acceptable as a rehabilitation outcome. Studies are focussing on both understanding natural wetland structure, dynamics and environmental drivers, on also on understanding how rehabilitation efforts are achieving desirable rehabilitation outcomes.

 

Photo: A typical seasonal waterbody of the Kemerton wetlands.


Photo: Dr. Eddie van Etten surveying vegetation rehabilitation success and rehabilitated slope topography and soil structure.


Figure: Topography, vegetation structure and soil structure profile of a seasonal Kemerton wetland.

Outputs

  • Van Etten, E. J. B.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2014). Setting restoration goals for restoring pit lakes as aquatic ecosystems: a case study from south west Australia. Mining Technology. link
  • Van Etten, E. J. B.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2011). Setting restoration goals for restoring pit lakes as aquatic ecosystems: a case study from south west Australia. Proceedings of the Eighth International Heavy Minerals Conference, Perth, Australia, 5-6 October 2011, pp. 339-350.  AusIMM, Melbourne. PDF
  • Van Etten, E. J. B.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2011). Sand mining restoration on the Swan Coastal Plain using topsoil – learning from monitoring of previous rehabilitation attempts. Proceedings of the Eighth International Heavy Minerals Conference, Perth, Australia, 5-6 October 2011, pp. 323-338.  AusIMM, Melbourne. PDF
  • Van Etten, E. J. B.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2012). Importance of topography and topsoil selection and storage in successfully rehabilitating post-closure sand mines featuring pit lakes. Mining Technology. 121: 139-150.link
  • van Etten, E.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2009). Evaluation of rehabilitation efforts at the Kemerton Silica Sands Pty. Ltd. project area, November 2008. Report number 2009-02, Centre for Ecosystem Management/Mine Water Environment Research, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. Unpublished commercial-in-confidence report to Kemerton Silica Sand Pty Ltd.
  • van Etten, E.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2009). Riparian vegetation characteristics of seasonal wetlands in Kemerton, south-western Australia Report number 2008-17, Centre for Ecosystem Management/Mine Water Environment Research, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. 50pp. Unpublished report to Kemerton Silica Sand Pty Ltd.


Ecology of black-stripe minnow (Galaxiella nigrostriata, Pisces: Galaxiidae) in remnant populations on the Swan Coastal Plain, Western Australia

Dave M. Galeotti (MiWER), Clint McCullough (MiWER), Mark Lund (MiWER), Mark Gell (KSS)

What habitat requirements does a fish that live in seasonal wetlands have and how does this relate to rehabilitating these wetlands from mining?

The south-west of Western Australia is home to only ten native species of freshwater fish. Of those ten, eight are endemic and two of those species live in seasonal wetlands (most fish live where water is permanent!) One of those species, the black-stripe minnow, Galaxiella nigrostriata, is currently known only to exist in three locations in WA: Melaleuca Park near Perth, Kemerton near Bunbury and between Augusta and Albany. While the ‘southern’ distribution mainly occurs within National Parks, the two remnant populations are not as protected.

My research will look at what factors decide their habitat choice and ultimately what they require to survive. The information gathered will help direct the conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands for this unique species by understanding their ecological requirements. With a continuing. drying climate and further pressures on the wetlands from development and groundwater extraction, research into this fascinating fish is of great importance. Wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain have a history of being filled, drained and/or degraded for agriculture, mining, urban sprawl and industrial uses. For example, one remnant population is on the project area of a sand mine. Luckily, the mining company is being proactive in their conservation efforts by funding research such as this.

There are four study components to my project: habitat and diet preferences, aestivation requirements and population genetic structure. The first three can be classed as the ecological requirements of the fish and the genetic component stands alone as an overall species management issue. Study results will provide information to help conserve this threatened species, direct wetland rehabilitation requirements on the mine project area and may be used to identify habitats likely to contain ‘new’ populations.

     

Photos: A seasonal wetland that only sometimes contains black-stripe minnow. September (left) and January (right).


Photos::Minnows are thought to aestivate in Koonac crayfish burrows

Funding:

Part of D. Galeotti’s MSc project. Funded by Kemerton Silica Sands

Outputs:

Galeotti, D. M.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2010). Can meta-population theory explain survival of an aestivating fish species in a seasonal wetland complex? 31st Congress of the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology. Cape Town, South Africa. 12–18 August. Societas Internationalis Limnologiae (SIL). PDF

Galeotti, D. M.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2009). Can meta-population theory explain survival of an aestivating fish species in a seasonal wetland complex? Australian Society for Limnology 2009 Congress. Alice Springs, Australia. PDF

Galeotti, D. M.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2010). Black-stripe minnow Galaxiella nigrostriata (Shipway 1953) (Pisces: Galaxiidae), a review and discussion. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 93: 13-20. link

Galeotti, D. M.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2008). A synthesis of Black-striped Minnow (Pisces, Galaxiidae: Galaxiella nigrostriata) ecological requirements, south-western Australia. Centre for Ecosystem Management Report 2008-12. Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. Unpublished report to Kemerton Silica Sand Pty Ltd. PDF

Galeotti, D. M., Castalanelli, M., Groth, D. M., McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2014). Genotypic and morphological variation between Galaxiella nigrostriata (Galaxiidae) populations: implications for conservation. Marine and Freshwater Research.

Article on WA Science Network entitled WA’s back-stripe minnow research continues link

Article on ABC News link

Influence of phosphorus and organic carbon on benthic productivity and ecological diversity in coal mine lakes.

Mark Lund (MiWER), Naresh Radhakrishnan (MiWER),  Clint McCullough (MiWER), Lorraine Wyse, Digby Short (Premier Coal)

Can amendments of organic matter and nutrient improve ecological values of abundance and biodiversity in coal mine lakes?

The objective of this project is to examine whether pit lake ecosystem values rather than water quality could be considered by regulators as criteria for accepting pit lake closure and relinquishment back to the state. Specifically, the project seeks to:

  • determine which nutrient is limiting in each of the two lake acidity types and what, if any, thresholds exist for the amount of nutrient that needs to be added to increase algal growth.
  • test whether additions of simple nutrients (N and P) can encourage significant improvement of ecosystem values in pit lake types  with different acidity;
  • examine the role that bankside vegetation may play in providing inputs of nutrients and habitat for increasing aquatic biodiversity environmental values.

 

Photo: Riparian vegetation around pit lakes is often sparse; but may be very important to lake ecosystem function.


Photo: Benthic chambers are used to measure benthic primary productivity.

 

Photo: Water quality data are collected by submersible logging sondes.

 

Outputs

Lund, M. A.; Van Etten, E. J. B. & McCullough, C. D. (2013).Importance of catchment vegetation and design to long-term rehabilitation of acidic pit lakes. Proceedings of the International Mine Water Association (IMWA) Congress. Bunbury, Australia. Brown, A.; Figueroa, L. & Wolkersdorfer, C. (eds.), International Mine Water Association (IMWA), 1029-1034pp.

Aquatic macroinvertebrate communities of the seasonal Kemerton Wetlands, south-western Australia

Clint McCullough (MiWER), Mark Lund (MiWER), Mark Gell (KSS)

What are the aquatic macroinvertebrate communities of the Kemerton Wetlands, and what environmental variables are their primary determinants?

Silica sand mining by Kemerton Silica Sand Pty. Ltd. in the Kemerton wetlands, south-western Australia, is followed by rehabilitation of mined lands into conservation areas after ore extraction is complete. Assessment of successful rehabilitation to a natural wetland ecological community involves comparing biotic communities of rehabilitated wetlands with local natural reference wetland communities. Aquatic macroinvertebrates are a industry-standard for such ecological assessment. Studies are examining what aquatic macroinvertebrate communities are present in seasonal Kemerton wetlands, and what environmental parameters are the major determinants of these communities. This understanding will also lead to guidelines as to what entails a rehabilitated wetland, and how it may best be achieved.

    

Photo: Dr. Clint McCullough collecting water quality data from a seasonal Kemerton Wetland in late winter.


Photo: Assoc. Prof. Mark Lund collecting a macroinvertebrate sample along a stratified-habitat transect line.

    

Figure: Abundance and biodiversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates in Kemerton Wetlands.

Funding: Kemerton Silica Sands Ltd

Outputs

McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2008). Aquatic macroinvertebrates in seasonal and rehabilitated wetlands of the Kemerton Silica Sand Pty Ltd project area (2007). Mine Water and Environment/Centre for Ecosystem Management Report 2008-16. Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. 75pp. Unpublished  commercial-in-confidence report to Kemerton Silica Sand Pty Ltd.

Lund, M. A. & McCullough, C. D. (2011). How representative are pit lakes of regional natural water bodies? A case study from silica sand mining. Proceedings of the International Mine Water Association (IMWA) Congress. Aachen, Germany. 529-533.PDF

Development of an inventory of pit lakes data and preliminary assessment of end-use options for Collie pit lakes

Dr. Clint McCullough (MiWER), Mark Lund (MiWER), Lu Zhao (MiWER)

Following cessation of mining, new pit lakes are forming in Collie. How can we best manage this new lakes district?

Along with some data held by State government departments, MiWER researchers at ECU have extensive unpublished pit lake water quality and ecological data for the Collie pit lakes from a number of research projects dating back to 1995 that are not available anywhere else. These studies include datasets for Black Diamond, Blue Waters (Ewington 2), Lake Centaur, Lake Kepwari, W05H, Lake Stockton, Chicken Creek pit lake and Ewington 1 and many of the new Premier Coal pit lakes. Chemistry datasets include metals and nutrient data, as well as basic physico-chemical data for almost all years to 1995 (some years data is of monthly or even weekly frequency). Ecology datasets include phytoplankton, periphyton, zooplankton and aquatic macroinvertebrates.

dad_EW1

Photo: Historical Ewington 1 lake

Following cessation of mining, new pit lakes are forming in Collie.

Stage 1:  Historic data review and analysis.

A desktop study will be used to collate all existing available data on the pit lakes of Collie. The companies (Griffin and Wesfarmers), consultants, government agencies (particularly DOW and DEC Bunbury), other stakeholders including researchers will be contacted for published and unpublished data. Where data is unobtainable (due to commercial considerations) a description of type of data will be contained in a meta database. Consideration will be given to completing analysis of samples that will add critical information to the data sets where this can be identified (e.g., unidentified but preserved macroinvertebrate samples). This inventory project will provide a compilation and review of existing datasets and compile existing pit lake water chemistry, ecology and social history data together in both a review document and electronic database deliverable.

 Stage 2:  Contemporary data collection and comparison against historic data

A contemporary data collection of new pit lake water quality and ecology data would be made to extend and address any knowledge gaps identified during the historical dataset compilation. This data collection will also extend available historic datasets by including pit lake fisheries and submerged aquatic plants. The entire historic and contemporary ecological and chemical data will be re-analysed as a complete dataset to provide up-to-date information on Collie pit lake management issues so as to help fill gaps determined in the review of existing data. The evaluation of chemical and biotic data over this time span will determine data trends and provide predictive data for the ongoing management of these resources under different scenarios.

 Stage 3:  Preliminary assessment of end-use options for pit lakes.

The trends analysed in stage 2 will be used to produce a preliminary assessment of end use options for the pit lakes of Collie and will clearly identify knowledge gaps.

Output (finished):

Larranãga, S. A.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. (2010). Aquatic macroinvertebrate communities of acid pit lakes. 31st Congress of the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology. Cape Town, South Africa. 12–18 August. Societas Internationalis Limnologiae (SIL).

McCullough, C. D.; Lund, M. A. & Zhao, L. Y. L. (2009). Mine Voids Management Strategy (I): Pit lake resources of the Collie Basin. Department of Water Project Report MiWER/Centre for Ecosystem Management Report 2009-14, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. 150pp. Unpublished report to Department of Water.