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Vasse estuary summer of science

Scientific research to better understand and manage water quality in the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands is well underway for this summer.

A number of exciting trials to improve water quality and better understand the ecology of the wetlands are being carried out by scientists over summer.

Water quality monitoring in the Vasse estuary channel by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is recording much lower concentrations of algae than usual for this time of year.

“We wanted to see if letting seawater into the estuary before the onset of the algal blooms would reduce the blooms over the summer period,” Dr Kath Lynch from the department said.

“Early results look great with algae concentrations much lower this summer than recorded over the last few years, with dissolved oxygen levels staying above critical levels.”

The department will continue to monitor water quality over the summer/autumn period to assess longer term trends in water quality.

Murdoch University scientists are also busy tracking fish movement through the fish gate on the surge barrier.  Lead scientist Dr Steve Beatty reported that ten fish had moved downstream through the fish gate in one night.

“Opening the fish gate to allow fish to move out of poorer water quality conditions in the estuary into the Wonnerup Inlet is key management action we use to reduce the risk of fish kills,” Kath said.

“Having the science to support our management actions gives us more confidence we are on the right track.”

Scientists en masse will descend on the wetlands next week to take part in the integrated ecological monitoring program.

The program, undertaken in partnership with the departments  of Water and Environmental Regulation and Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and Murdoch University, monitors seasonal water quality, water levels, aquatic plants, bugs, fish and birds.

“Better understanding of the relationship between the water regime (salinity and water levels) and the ecology of the wetlands will help ensure management supports both improvements in water quality and ecology of the broader system,” Kath said.

“The Vasse Wonnerup wetlands are a highly dynamic system and the work that the scientist are doing in the wetlands is helping us understand this very complex and special wetland system.”

The summer of science on the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands is being supported by Revitalising Geographe Waterways.

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