Water monitoring to inform land management on Roebuck Plains

[July 2015]

Yawuru Traditional Owners have undertaken preliminary work for groundwater monitoring across Yawuru Country, near Broome, Western Australia, with a view to establishing a long-term monitoring regime in the area.

The groundwater project is supported by Rangelands NRM with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Yawuru Country Managers, part of the Nyamba Buru Yawuru Land and Sea Unit, installed 40 piezometers to measure and monitor groundwater movement through different substrate types including pindan, saltmarsh and wetlands at eight sites across Roebuck Plains Station, Willie Creek, and One Mile community.

Yawuru Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) Coordinator, Nathan Kay said seasonal trends are already evident from the 12 months of data, and the work has been valuable training for the Yawuru Country Managers. 

He said the project has developed the Country Managers’ skills in data collection; the principles of water monitoring and basic hydrography of the area as well as the use of water monitoring equipment, and data analysis.

“As the data is examined over the coming years, further extrapolation will be possible which may inform future land management,” Mr Kay said. 

“This project, along with the other training opportunities, has helped to refine our ideas for management priorities and future projects.”

Proposed future projects for the Yawuru Country Managers include establishing a long-term monitoring regime at a number of the wetland communities on Roebuck Plains Station. These wetlands would be included in the Yawuru IPA, which is currently in the consultation stage. Yawuru have been in discussions with the Indigenous Land Council (ILC) regarding the future management of these wetland areas, which may include fencing and altered grazing regimes.

“The health of the wetland communities may be impacted by cattle grazing, fire, on or off-site water extraction and weeds, but only through repeatable long-term monitoring can we identify, and then manage, the effects of each,” he said.

Anecdotal evidence suggests cattle grazing can actually have a beneficial effect on native fauna, for example, by creating favourable habitat for migratory birds in these wetland systems. 

Mr Kay said the long-term monitoring, currently in planning, would help them get a better understanding of the effects of cattle grazing on all wetland ecosystem components.

All works on the station will be undertaken in consultation with the ILC, who manage the lease.

The Country Managers, in conjunction with the ILC, have commenced establishment of Rangeland Condition Monitoring sites across Roebuck Plains Station.

In addition to this monitoring work, Yawuru Country Managers have attended a Grazing Land Management Course facilitated by the ILC, and two workshops covering pasture identification and Ecologically Sustainable Rangelands Management (ESRM) facilitated by Rangelands NRM.

This work is among other land management initiatives being undertaken by the Yawuru Country Managers including weed management and fire management. 

The approaches combine traditional Yawuru knowledge, with western science to achieve the best outcome for Country.

Roebuck Plains pastoral station was divested to the Yawuru Traditional Owners in 2014, however the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) continue to lease and manage the property.

Images:

1. Yawuru Country Manager Pius Gregory at a monitoring site at Willie Creek, north of Broome.

2. Yawuru Country Managers at a monitoring site at Sheep Camp, on Roebuck Plains Station. 
Courtesy of Nyamba Buru Yawuru.