Amy Russell

Amy Russell

Amy Russell, Australia

Amy Russell, project officer at the North Central Catchment Management Authority in northern Victoria, supports a number of projects across the CMA region including the delivery of environmental water to key wetlands; pest plant and animal management and has an important role implementing the flood recovery program.

Having worked at the North Central CMA for 5.5 years, Amy is intrinsically involved in a number of projects however delivering, for the first time, large-scale environmental water to the Ramsar listed Gunbower Forest is a significant stand-out. Amy’s work creates drought refuge wetlands in the Wimmera Mallee through the careful management, coordination and delivery of environmental water. Working in partnership with the community and landholders to manage rabbits in culturally sensitive areas and collaborating with agencies to establish suitable habitat for the translocation of the threatened Murray hardyhead are achievements of which Amy is particularly proud.

Presentation Title: Making a big difference for a little fish (Murray hardyhead)

Lake Elizabeth is saline lake situated in Northern Victoria. The salinity of residual pools can exceed 100,000 uS/cm; however, in the past, it was much less saline and had hosted several fish species including Murray hardyhead until 2002. Murray hardyhead is a highly-threatened species with less than 10 populations left in the Murray Darling Basin. Surveys found that Lake Elizabeth remained a suitable location for a Murray Hardyhead translocation if the lakes salinity levels could be managed with environmental water. We explored the salinity of the lake under a range of scenarios through the development of a simple spreadsheet model.  The model demonstrated the lake salinity was quite sensitive to seepage loss, and that care would be required to avoid the lake becoming either too fresh or two saline for the species.  This research led us to opt for an environmental watering program based on an adaptive management to regulate lake-groundwater interactions. Environmental water was first delivered to the lake in 2014 and since then the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has been working closely with several stakeholders to manage lake salinity between 25,000 and 35,000 uS/cm to encourage an ecological regime suitable for the fish species.  Aquatic vegetation in the lake has reacted extremely well to the changed water regime, 97% of quadrats surveyed contained vegetation. and zooplankton numbers increased substantially. Murray hardyhead were translocated into the lake from a nearby source population in spring 2015. The salt load in the lake plays a major factor in the management of environmental water,  The lake is monitored continuously and water delivered carefully to keep conditions right for these important little fish and we the North Central CMA will continue to work with stakeholders to keep this fish around for a lot longer.

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