Time to celebrate some of the great conservation teams we have had the honour to work with
Conservation in a connected landscape: Restoring Queensland's wetlands to protect the Great Barrier Reef
At WildTeam we are incredibly lucky to work with some amazing conservation teams around the world. We have been providing training and consultancy support to NQ Dry Tropics since 2016, and in this issue, we look at their work.
The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Area, renowned for its extraordinary natural beauty and unique habitats rich in biodiversity. The health of the reef is declining, however, due to a range of threats. One of these is pollution from water flowing into the reef lagoon from surrounding farmland, which has been enriched with chemical fertilisers.
Such pollution can, to some extent, be mitigated through the buffering effects of coastal wetland areas which filter run-off and control water flow. The Bowling Green Bay wetland area in particular is important in this regard, and has been designated a Ramsar site, both for the ecosystem services which it provides to the reef, and for its own biodiversity value as an internationally significant breeding site for waterfowl and wading birds.
In turn, however, land management and agricultural practices in wetland areas adjacent to, but not within the Ramsar designated site, influence the health of the Bowling Green Bay wetlands, affecting not only the biodiversity found there, but also their capacity to perform the ecosystem services which are so important for the Great Barrier Reef.
Everything is connected.
NQ Dry Tropics is a not-for-profit, community-based organisation promoting sustainable management of land, water, plants and animals across an area of over 140,000km2 in the dry tropics of North Queensland, Australia. Over the past decade they have been working in the Burdekin Delta, an area adjacent to the Bowling Green Bay wetland which is important for sugar cane production, to promote agricultural and land management practices which reduce degradation to the Bowling Green Bay wetlands, while maintaining the livelihoods of local farmers. In particular, they have been working with farmers to reduce nitrogen input, introduce better controlled irrigation systems and restore seasonal water flow patterns.
And they have achieved some fantastic results. In a 3-year pilot study which paid farmers to reduce nitrogen use by at least 5%, the average reduction was in fact around 20%. Moreover, not a single farmer participating in the project reported reduced yields, but rather their overall profit margins increased due to reduced expenditure on fertiliser. Although the project has ended, the farmers are now looking for ways to further reduce their nitrogen use, given the beneficial impact on their incomes.
Other projects to control invasive plants and encourage riparian vegetation, improve irrigation systems and restore seasonal water flow patterns, have reduced the flow of nitrogen-enriched water into the water course, and improved downstream ecological function and habitat quality.
This work is helping to improve the environmental quality of the Burdekin Delta and Bowling Green Bay wetlands, reduce the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, while at the same time enhancing the livelihoods of local farmers. A win-win-win! Don’t you love it when that happens?
For more information on the work of NQ Dry Tropics, check out their website.
Ethiopian wolves are the most endangered canid on the planet. They are found only in the mountains of Ethiopia, where fewer than 500 individuals survive in small populations, threatened by habitat loss and disease.
The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP), which is part of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), was founded in 1995 by Claudio Sillero and Karen Laurenson, with the mission of securing viable and ecologically functioning Ethiopian wolf populations and habitats for the future. WildTeam have been working with EWCP since 2017 to help them infuse our project management processes into their work.
Rabies in particular is one of the main threats which the wolves face. It has the potential to kill up to 70% of individuals in an area. So when we caught up with Dr Jorgelina Marino, the team’s Science Director, in April 2019, she was excited the tell us about their new initiative.
In the past couple of years the team have begun an oral rabies vaccination program, inoculating wolves before they ever get infected. The introduction of this program is the result of many years of hard work and represents a major breakthrough for wolf conservation. Firstly, the team don’t need to trap and handle wolves to vaccinate them, with benefits in terms of animal welfare and reduced costs. With the need to handle the animals removed, the governments were also willing to give permission for the preventive vaccination program to go ahead, as opposed to the usual emergency vaccination approach, reacting to an outbreak, by when several wolves were already infected and died.
The hope is that the preventative vaccination program will mean that major rabies outbreaks are a thing of the past and that the future of these beautiful animals is little bit rosier than it was before.
Find out more about EWCP's work here.