Many Wetlands: One Earth
Two of the aims of this Wonderful Wetlands project are to identify organisations and projects taking action to regenerate waterways locally and also those of global importance that effect climate change via hydrology and carbon sequestration to name two processes. In this blog I start with the global focus, add in some background information and resources I discovered researching this topic and then include the list of stakeholders and ‘friends’ of the Peel-Yalgorup Wetlands at the end.
Do you feel a need to take action?
Where are you drawn? Do you sense that more people feel called to protect and restore environments in their local residential or recreational areas than globally? The problems are visible and the solutions sometimes fairly easy to put to action, for example picking up plastic along the shoreline or fishing line off the rocks. And then we face the ‘not so natural disasters’ like massive bushfires that lead to focused vision on the destruction and loss in front of our eyes.
To address bigger issues like climate change, ocean acidification and global biodiversity loss can lead to overwhelm. Are less people called to take action in places that don’t immediately affect them? If we look at our planet as one, yes it is a part of the universe, but lets stick with the planet for now, then we see the interconnection and need to address deforestation and poor agricultural practices globally. There are several organisations who have made steady and significant progress in this.
As part of the Wonderful Wetlands project I wish to connect the Peel-Yalgorup Wetlands with a small village in West Papua. Why you may ask?
Treesisters.org partners with several organisations who work at grass roots levels in wetlands like West Papua and Madagascar, watersheds like Mt Kenya and rainforests like the Ashaninka community land in South-Western Brazil. All projects are locally important as well as having significant impacts globally.
Project Drawdown brought together a team of scientists who researched and calculated over 100 solutions, that are already being practiced globally to produce the book ‘Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming’ (2017). The project was started, and the book edited by Paul Hawken. Regenerative agriculture, inter-cropping with trees and many variants of practices that include trees in agriculture improve food production and improve the land/soil. From the section on coastal wetlands I quote: “Coastal wetlands can store five times as much carbon as tropical forests over the long term, mostly in deep wetland soils. The soil of mangrove forests alone may hold the equivalent of more than two years of global emissions—22 billion tons of carbon, much of which would escape if these ecosystems were lost.” In a talk Paul Hawken applauded the work of Treesisters.
For another view point on the importance of trees listen to Sadhguru at World Economic Forum Davos | 1 Trillion Trees Press Conference 2019. Spiritual teacher Sadhguru spoke in Davos about the importance of trees. I found it to be an excellent explanation of how working with the motivations of people (e.g economic survival) will lead to longer term preservation of trees. I am advocate for re-wilding the planet but sanctuaries are difficult, if not impossible to protect from poachers and changes in whims of governments. The world is seeing increasing uptake of restorative practices like regenerative agriculture, permaculture and agroforestry. His inspiration is wide reaching. Treesisters.org apparently have a historical link to his initial tree planting project GreenHands. Imagine a large percent of land currently used to industrially feed livestock (aka domestic animals) being converted and used to grow plants for food and interspersed with trees.
Can understanding plant intelligence change attitudes and behaviour towards plants? To read about this please go here.
Background on climate
Climate is affected by tree density and canopy coverage with obvious changes in rainfall locally and downstream dependent on tree coverage. It is useful to reflect on up and down wind dynamics.:-Where does your water come from, and how much does the catchment basin that you’re a part of contribute to downwind rainfall?” In my bio-region 18 % of the supplied ‘tap’ water comes from a desalination plant. Western Australia’s climate has been changing for the last two decades with drops in rainfall and increasing winter mean temperatures. Although focus was put on reducing clearing in the last part of the 20th century the clearing of land has accelerated at an alarming rate. Much has been for urban development. Observing the encroachment of housing into bush-land and areas previously cleared for agricultural use the population seems like it is exploding. However, still being a low-density population, our contribution to climate change may not appear much but statistics show our extraction of gas in the North West puts our carbon (and methane) emissions way above other states and so affects the whole planet.
Atmospheric moisture generated by forests is blown by prevailing winds to other regions, countries and even continents. You can see the mist in a rainforest that is produced by the trees transpiring water vapour and even in a city you can feel the coolness sitting under a tree on a hot day. Tropical rainforests are well documented to affect global weather systems and climate belts (search and read about biotic pumps, the role of forests in rainfall, cross continental water transport etc or visit the units section of FB group for the Amazon).
Ocean currents (and whales) bring nutrients to the surface for plankton growth and bring temperature differences needed for plant germination and animal species life stages. There are two types of currents- surface currents driven by wind and deep-water currents driven by variations in seawater density. These currents link oceans world-wide. Changes in ocean temperature, often brought on currents can kill coral and change the breeding patterns on marine animals like turtles, leading to further species extinction. For more information see Water Cycle. There are more graphics like this at the NASA site. Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures impact rainfall and temperature patterns over Australia. Warmer than average sea surface temperatures can provide more moisture for frontal systems and lows crossing Australia often leading to floods and erosion.
One of the key drivers of Australia’s climate is the Indian Ocean Dipol (IOD) which results from sustained changes in the difference between sea surface temperatures of the tropical western and eastern Indian Ocean. Understanding the seasonal trends towards a positive, negative or neutral phase could allow for better planning of water use and conservation needs. Maybe water allocated for industry, industrial agriculture and mining could be diverted to replenishing underground water supplies and watering trees undergoing drought stress. (Just a thought…a prayer). If the phase is positive the outlook is less rain and higher temperatures. This is likely to be in Spring and early summer setting the country up for more heatwaves and higher fire risk. At the time of writing we have moved from a positive phase into a neutral phase so the outlook for rain (see BOM video) is unpredictable but likely low in the Peel area. Bureau of Meteorology provide great explanations and forecasts on their web site.
However, our bio-region, a part of our planet Earth, a living eco-system is influenced by complex systems that have exponential or snowball effects. Consider the addition of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which is the major climate driver in the Pacific Ocean. It also has a strong impact on Australia’s climate.
- El Niño – typically warmer and drier over eastern Australia
- La Niña – cooler and wetter over much of the country.
- El Niño + positive IOD = reinforced dry impacts. (we have just had this double effect)
- La Niña + negative IOD = above-average winter–spring rainfall.
Wetlands sequester huge amounts of carbon in mangroves and sea grass as well as the estuary or sea floor as long as it is not disturbed. The water (in the ocean, lakes, rivers and estuaries) absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and as this level has risen drastically due to use of fossil fuels the level in the ocean has risen causing the slightly alkaline ocean to neutralise – called acidification. About 30 to 40 % of the carbon dioxide created from human activity dissolves into water bodies. Oceans supply half the planets oxygen supply. The air I breath in today is made up of the same elements that someone breathed out across the globe that was reduced in carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to be enriched with oxygen by ocean and terrestrial plants.
Carbon sequestration (storage) in tree roots is often the most documented reason for planting trees as we face increasing climate change, and the potential sequestration has been scientifically evaluated to be one of the most powerful actions we can take. However, we need to be aware of clever (deceitful) accounting of carbon credits with people offsetting destruction of plants in one area with planting monoculture forest species in another. This type of global offsetting is not useful, although carbon credits can be created in more just and sustainable ways.
- Treesisters, the organisation, carefully checks potential tree planting partners to maintain a high level of ethics.
- Treesisters, women and men, value giving back to Nature by donating money for planting trees globally in the tropics.
Threats and Actions
Global actions do affect local climate and biodiversity. Local actions do affect the globe.
In relation to wetlands it is useful to understand global threats that are influenced by local actions. One threat is to migratory birds.
Many species of birds and marine animals migrate and rely on vegetation and food to sustain themselves long distances. Stop over points on these journeys are essential for their sustenance. One of the reasons Peel-Yalgorup Wetlands gained international importance status (Ramsar Wetland) was due to the presence of over 20,000 water birds. A large portion of these are migratory travelling from the East coast of Australia, around the southern coast, up to the top of WA, through Asia and to the artic and back again each year. It is possible that they stop at Ansas in West Papua?
We are truly One Earth and it is important to think collectively and collaborate as one.
Your local action may be led by your love for a particular area or passion and so can your global action sponsor local actions in far away places. Sometimes it can help to focus on one project to sister with. I have chosen Treesisters newest project that partners with Eden operating in West Papua.
“Eden Reforestation Projects helps the village of Ansas replant the mangroves in its vicinity. The project addresses both poverty and mangrove restoration together. Addressing poverty and restoring mangroves will over time retroactively influence positively one another. (Please visit site to read more and see writing of this image).Healthy mangrove forests will provide an abundance of life and fisheries resources. The Ansas community will in time be able to build a different relationship with their mangroves, improve their livelihoods, and plan a better future.” (Treesisters web page https://treesisters.org/blog/west-papua-yapen-mangrove-restorationaccessed 25-1-2020)
We can learn great wisdom to adopt locally from the people leading these organisations who have been doing more than planting trees for decades. Planting the trees is only one step. Before that comes education and motivation for change, (what’s in it for the locals) seed collection, sprouting, nurturing, distribution to the planting site, then the planting, caring for and protection and in some cases like agro-forestry sustainable harvesting. Planting a tree, or even sand dune stabilizing grasses like I did with a local group last spring, can feel great but what or who takes care of them after that? Hopefully they are monitored and the programs have longevity. Hopefully corporations with the money and power to push for development and therefore destroying habitat do not override the community-based actions.
There are many concepts and stories for new ways of doing things. Making local council decisions based on bio-regions sustainability, Rights of Nature and Eco-cide Laws, New economies, Transitional towns and regenerative and transparent cyclical economies are a few I will link to this project later.
Overall, projects that look more wholistically, that develop from care and love for nature, change thoughts, values and then behaviours will make the world a better place. The results of projects honouring life, especially of green beings around the globe, can help give us hope and counterbalance the hope-discouragement polarities and swings. I find equanimity in embedding love in what I do. I hope it helps you too.
If you are part of a group active in the Peel-Yalgorup wetlands and would like to be listed here, and or you would like to add some information or contact details please contact me.
The Peel-Yalgorup System Ramsar Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was established in 2007 and involves 27 stakeholder organisations who work collaboratively to manage this wetland system
27 Stakeholder Organisations & Friends* Some links below
Traditional Custodians (Relationship to country – Watch videos on the river and land relationship that Harry Nannup and Franklin Nannup hold on Point Grey at the Ramsar and the 482 Wildlife and Photograpy FB page)
“One of our most important activities is the annual bird count we do on the RAMSAR listed wetlands. One of the main aims of this activity is to show that we continue to support the requisite number of species and birds to maintain our RAMSAR listing. We always welcome volunteers to this activity be they experts in identifying birds, scribes or people helping to ensure the success of the event. Shorebird identification workshops are occasionally run by PHCC (Peel-Harvey Catchment Council). If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Convenor of the Peel group: Bill King”
City of Mandurah – You can find out about the City Councils aims and strategies on their web page and other information on their FB page. Quote: With an estimated 80 percent of wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain having been cleared, filled, drained or otherwise destroyed since European settlement, the City’ Foreshore Rehabilitation Project will help minimise our impact, and enable the protection and rehabilitation of these valuable waterways.
Mandurah Environmental Volunteer Alliance is open to all environmental groups in the region. The alliance meets monthly and is supported by the Environment Education Officer form the Mandurah City Council.
Conservation Council (WA) (Peel Conservation Group is a member. The organisation has several projects including a Fairy Tern bird count. To quote: “…the South West Fairy Tern Project supports members of the community to protect the threatened Australian Fairy Tern Sternula Nereis. Migratory Fairy Terns can often be seen nesting and raising fledglings on sandy beaches and coastal areas around Perth during summer months, returning to locations as far north as Exmouth during winter. The exposed nesting sites preferred by the birds can make them vulnerable to vehicles, foot traffic, pets, and feral animals. It is estimated that there are 3,000 pairs of Fairy Terns in WA, however this may be a significant underestimate.”
Department for Planning (& Infrastructure)
Department of Agriculture and Food
Department of Fisheries WA – Click for a Fisheries risk Assessment
Department of Parks
and Wildlife (Dept. Environment and Conservation) – Wetlands
Department of Parks and Wildlife (Dept. Environment and Conservation) – Swan Coastal District
Department of the Environment and Energy (Aus Gov)
Department of Water -For a Water Risk Assessment see Peel Coastal Ground water report 2015 (Water Science)
Department of Transport
FRAGYLE (Also a member of CCWA. Their web site has information on the wetlands and the Ramsar status…
Lake Clifton Herron Landcare Group
Friends of Lake McLarty
Lake Mealup Preservation Society (Inc)
Mandurah Bird Observers Group – Birdlife WA
Peel Development Commission
Shire of Harvey
Shire of Murray
Shire of Waroona
Alcoa of Australia (Industry)
There are other groups not recognised within this advisory group who are active in advocating and caring for the estuary. Many will be at the Mandurah Wetlands Environment Event on Sunday February 2nd 2020.