Chowilla Floodplain contains the largest remaining natural river red gum forest in the Lower Murray and a range of diverse aquatic habitats. It is a part of the Chowilla Game and Regional Reserve as well as the Riverland Ramsar wetland of international importance. Chowilla is home to many iconic and endangered native species, including the Murray cod, regent parrot and the southern bell frog and is the traditional home of the First Peoples of the River Murray and Mallee region
The floodplain experienced severe ecological decline due to long periods without flooding. Floods that naturally occurred about 45 times in 100 years now only occur about 12 times in 100 years. This was made significantly worse by the Millennium drought.
This has resulted in:
- rising soil salinity
- the decline of trees particularly the majestic river red gum and the black box
- fewer breeding opportunities for floodplain wildlife.
Three high level ecological objectives have been set for the Chowilla Floodplain by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council:
- maintain high-value wetlands
- maintain the current area of river red gum forest, which is the largest remaining in the Lower Murray region
- maintain at least 20 per cent of the original area of black box vegetation.
Work to achieve this includes:
- environmental watering and monitoring to protect priority wetland sites as refuge for plants and animals, and to better understand the condition of the floodplain and how to best manage this precious area
- engagement with the community to ensure long term benefits can be achieved and sustained
- operation and management of floodplain infrastructure to enable us to make the best possible use of any environmental water available.
The Chowilla environmental water management plan sets more detailed objectives and targets to achieve the restoration of the floodplain.