State of the Environment Report 2007 

Snapshot: Peat bogs – nature’s valuable services restored

'Sub-alpine Sphagnum peat bogs' may be a mouthful; but that title refers to unique and fragile ecosystems with important functions. They are valuable and significant natural water filters and storages, vital to the function of catchments, releasing water slowly through dry periods – in the ACT’s case, into the Cotter catchment, our primary water source. And they are a habitat for an unique array of flora and fauna such as the endangered corroboree frog, broad-toothed rat and Latham’s snipe, a migratory bird.

The 2003 bushfires devastated bogs in the high country. 95% of Namadgi National Park was burnt, impacting most bogs to some degree. Fortunately the fires did not burn deeply into some of the many bogs of varying size: but the loss was more extensive than ever before, and very significant because bogs are fragile, rarely fire-affected, and slow to recover their vital functions. Without intervention, recovery could take three decades or more. So, a restoration project was set up during 2003 to run until 2008/2009. It is managed by Namadgi National Park staff, helped by volunteers and peat bog experts, and funded by the ACT and Commonwealth Governments and ACTEW.

The late Amanda Carey largely initiated the recovery project, made the initial assessment of the bogs, consulted with academic and NSW Parks Service colleagues in developing restoration methods, set up funding applications and undertook all the initial program co-ordination and implementation. For this and other work she is remembered with gratitude.

The program is one of the most extensive of the relatively few examples of bog restoration and involves on-ground works, research and monitoring. Temporary bio-degradable straw bale and coir log dams cut excess flows in the main bog streams, spreading water to aid re-hydration and thus revegetation and a return of functionality. Sphagnum and other species were transplanted and shaded to cut moisture loss and UV impacts, enhancing microclimates. An adaptive management approach ensures progress is constantly reviewed (including with the help of photo monitoring) and methods speedily modified.

Feral pigs compromise the rehabilitation, damaging surrounding grasslands and sometimes the bogs. Pig control is costly, reliant upon Namadgi’s successful annual control program: the 2007 program achieved a mark reduction in pigs across the Park.

The ACT program involved works in eight bogs with photo monitoring in fourteen (some being restored, the rest providing a comparison). It is proving to be one of the most successful peat bog restorations. There have already been benefits through rehabilitating the ecosystem and threatened species habitat, including a Ramsar wetland, plus restoring water storage and filtration functions. Work has commenced on two more bogs in line with the initial assessment that ten of the fire-affected bogs needed restorative works.

Future climate change will further impact on the ecology and extent of Sub-Alpine Bogs and needs consideration. But for now, while much remains to be done, progress is good and the management, methods, and monitoring are in place to continue this vital recovery. 

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