Karst springs and alkaline fens restoration in the Limestone Coast, South Australia
The karst springs and alkaline fens restoration project is now underway. Located in the southern coast of the lower Limestone Coast, the Project will rejuvenate and restore a critically endangered wetland community, contribute to water security goals and create new caring for country opportunities for First Nations.
Environmental significance of the property
Nestled on the coastal plain east of Port MacDonnell, this property was once part of an extensive alkaline fen teeming with native plants and animals. Restoration of the site will focus on the alkaline fens, which will be restored through semi-permanent re-inundation with water from the three karst springs that exist on the property.
Flora and fauna restoration and protection
Restoration, including terrestrial revegetation, and protection of the wetland community will support endangered, vulnerable and threatened species including the Australasian Bittern, Magpie Goose, Swamp Antechinus, Brolga, Glenelg Spiny Crayfish, Southern Pygmy Perch, Ewens Pygmy Perch, Swamp Greenhood and Dwarf Galaxias.
The topography of the property, the secure water supply from the springs and the containment offered by bordering drains presents a unique opportunity for large scale restoration without impacting neighbouring properties.
The property is of profound environmental significance and holds a unique opportunity to repurpose farmland for regional environmental, community and primary production gains, something that will inspire the next generation as we strive for a sustainable future.
Celebrating the extraordinary: Karst springs and alkaline fens
The Limestone Coast is home to the globally rare and unique karst springs and associated alkaline fen wetland ecosystems.
These remarkable springs emerge as a result of the discharge of groundwater under pressure from the underlying limestone geology, creating breathtaking water bodies like Ewens Ponds. The associated alkaline fens, which are permanent to semi-permanent wetlands that surround the springs, are sustained by the spring discharge. The alkaline fens include herbland, peatland, sedgeland and/or shrubland vegetation.
However, history has left its mark - the extent of these unique wetland ecosystems, in particular, the associated fens, have been impacted by historical drainage and clearing, much of which occurred in the 1940’s. Now, karst springs and their associated alkaline fens are listed as a threatened ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. As our climate gets hotter and drier, the time to act is now!
A proven concept
Reviving Pick Swamp: A remarkable conservation journey
Pick Swamp is found in the western edge of Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park. In 2005, a collaborative effort between the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources and the former South East Natural Resource Management Board purchased 230 ha of previously drained wetland, Pick Swamp, from a local farmer.
Pick Swamp was largely intact until the 1970's, when the majority of it was drained and cleared to support cattle grazing. Prior to restoration the site supported water-logged introduced pasture with a near absence of a wetland ecosystem, and was at risk of further drainage. The opportunity was taken to return the property to conservation, by reversing the drainage of the area and instead allowing the discharge of water from karst springs to re-inundate the property, restoring it to a wetland ecosystem.
Despite the historic clearance and habitat alteration, the ecosystem response was rapid and remarkable with an immediate recovery of aquatic habitat. The site now represents an outstanding example of karst spring and alkaline fen wetland restoration. The Pick Swamp restoration has significantly boosted populations of endangered, vulnerable and threatened species including the Australasian Bittern, Magpie Goose, Swamp Antechinus and Brolga.
L: Pick Swamp before restoration in 2007. R: Pick Swamp after restoration 2017. Photo credit: Limestone Coast Landscape Board.