The state’s swollen floodplains are alive with aquatic critters and new research is shining a spotlight on what kinds of fish, frogs, and other creatures call them home.
Chief Knowledge Officer Mitchell Isaacs said it is the first time the NSW Government has looked at wildlife living in 20 floodplain pools across the Northern Murray Darling Basin including the Border Rivers, Namoi, Gwydir and Barwon-Darling catchments, providing a clearer snapshot of what’s happening in these waters.
"It could be years before we see this amount of water in the Basin again, so it makes sense to get our best and brightest experts sampling these pools for environmental DNA - the building block of life - to inform the way we manage water in the region,” Mr Isaacs said.
“Floodplains are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. They provide a spawning ground for fish and are critical areas of rest and foraging for birds.
“When you have healthy floodplains, you have healthy wildlife habitats. Collecting samples of eDNA from lagoons, waterholes and billabongs tells us a lot about the creatures that live here, but more importantly it tells us a lot about water quality and how it impacts these ecosystems.
“This information will be critical in guiding future delivery of our floodplain harvesting policy and water sharing plans, enabling us to make necessary adjustments to get the balance right.”
An early finding of the research is an explosion in the population of Golden Perch, a freshwater fish of cultural and social significance to First Nations peoples in the region.
“The Golden Perch is one of the largest aquatic predators in the Murray Darling Basin so it’s presence in the pools indicates a productive habitat and a strong connection with floodplain flows,” Mr Isaacs said.
“Fauna richness appears to be closely linked to the size of the floodplain pool and its level of connectivity to the floodplain itself.
“It’s very early days, but we’re hoping to do more work on this over the coming 12 months.”
The program began in May last year and the next phase will kick off in March 2023.