The River Red Gum forests and wetlands need to be flooded for a 2-3 month period, about 7 years in 10 in order to remain healthy however, the flooding patterns of the Barmah-Millewa and other Red Gum forests have been changed because of the way the Murray River and its tributaries are operated to supply water for domestic use, stock use and irrigation.
Currently there are fewer winter/spring floods and more small summer floods. This altered flooding pattern results in the long-term drought of some areas of the river red gum forests and wetlands, while others become waterlogged, consequently changing the forest and degrading vegetation.
Environmental flow at Wallpolla Island. Photo: ©Tom Widdup.As part of the 'Living Murray Initiative' (see http://thelivingmurray.mdbc.gov.au/ for more information) the News South Wales and Victorian state governments have promised to return 500 billion litres of water to the Murray River icon sites by 2008 to save the forests.
So far NSW and Victorian governments have recovered 240 billion litres (approximately 50% of the promised amount) for the Murray and the Intergovernmental Agreement signed by NSW, Victoria, South Australia, The Australian Capital Territory and The Australian Government in 2004 also pledges $500 million over five years to saving and restoring the Murray River and its forests and wetlands to a healthy state.
Restoring the Murray River floodplain communities will ensure the regeneration and survival of Red Gum Forest, reedy swamps and Moira Grass plains as well as floodplain-dependent fauna whose reproductive cycles are triggered by flood events (State of Victoria Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Forest Management Plan for the mid-Murray Forest Management Area, 2002). It will also result in improved water quality downstream of the wetlands and decrease risk of algal bloom in weir pools along the length of the Murray River (Scientific Reference Panel for The Living Murray Initiative, Interim Report, 2003).