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At the End of the River

At the End of the River: The Coorong and Lower Lakes

David Cleland Paton
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 247
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  • Book Info
    At the End of the River
    Book Description:

    Beautifully presented and written by one of the Coorongs most knowledgeable ecologists, At the end of the River is an essential read for those responsible for making the decisions that will determine its future. At the End of the River: The Coorong and Lower Lakes by David Paton recently won a Whitley Award from the New South Wales Royal Zoological Society.

    eISBN: 978-1-921511-09-7
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xi)
    Mike Young

    European settlement has brought many benefits to Australia but few for the Coorong. During the first half of last century, the South East was drained and the Barrages were built. With the Barrages in place, irrigation communities and cities like Adelaide, Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie could expand and they did.

    Late in October 2002, this era of expansion came to a screeching halt. Dredges were brought in to keep the Mouth of the River Murray open. Seven years later, these dredges are still there. The Coorong that served Australia for millennia is changing – changing rapidly. Australia’s mightiest river...

  2. CHAPTER 1 An Ecologist’s Perspective
    (pp. 1-11)

    At the end of the River Murray is a wetland, a wetland of international significance. We know this area as the Coorong and Lower Lakes, the last bodies of water that the Murray traverses before reaching the Southern Ocean. Our connection to this place varies. For those who live around its shores, work with it and depend on it, there is a love of place, a sense of belonging. For some, the connection is all embracing, a setting for stories about traditions and place; even modern European culture connects to the place through a boy, Storm-Boy¹ and a pelican, Mr...

  3. CHAPTER 2 The Coorong Ocean Beach: A high energy coastline
    (pp. 13-29)

    The first descriptions of the coastline along the Coorong were provided by Captain Nicolas Baudin, the French explorer who sailed north-west along this section of coastline in theGeographeon 8 April 1802. Baudin’s description translated into English reads:

    The stretch of coast that we had been following since yesterday consisted entirely of sand dunes which inspired nothing but sadness and regrets. Quite apart from the wretched and unpleasant appearance of this shore, the sea breaks all the way along it with extraordinary force, and the two or three swells that appear before the waves reach the shore indicate that...

  4. CHAPTER 3 Younghusband Peninsula: From discovery and exploitation to reservation
    (pp. 30-49)

    Sitting between the ocean beach and the sheltered waters of the Coorong are the dunes of Younghusband Peninsula, named after William Younghusband, a member of the Legislative Council of South Australia from 1851 to 1861. These dunes are typically 1-2 kilometres wide and stretch from the Murray Mouth to Kingston SE. From a distance, they provide little vertical relief, as they are rarely higher than 30 metres. Early morning light provides some definition to the sculpture of the tallest peaks and helps contrast bare dunes against darker vegetation at lower elevations. However, such descriptions do these dunes little justice, since...

  5. CHAPTER 4 The Ecology of Younghusband Peninsula
    (pp. 51-77)

    The coastal vegetation that has established on Younghusband Peninsula depends on just a few plants that have a remarkable ability to colonise the fore-dunes and other areas with mobile sands. These plants thus reduce the extent of inland sand movement, in turn allowing other plants to establish and flourish. This chapter begins with a brief description of the abilities of colonising plants, followed by an exploration of the composition and dynamics of the coastal scrubs that typically clothe the more sheltered inland dunes and swales, and support terrestrial fauna. In discussing the terrestrial fauna, there is a bias towards birds,...

  6. CHAPTER 5 The Coorong Lagoons: Dynamic but hydrologically challenged
    (pp. 79-107)

    The wetlands associated with the Lower Lakes and Coorong were designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on 1 November 1985. In nominating this region, Australia accepted an international obligation to manage these wetlands in a manner that maintained their ecological character. As a general rule, the ecological condition at the time of nomination is used as the benchmark against which future changes in ecological character are judged. In 1985, the ecological condition of the key assets of the Coorong and Lower Lakes were not well defined and there were suggestions that these had been seriously...

  7. CHAPTER 6 The Coorong Lagoons: Early natural history and use of natural resources
    (pp. 109-125)

    George French Angas provided some initial descriptions of the Coorong and Lower Lakes and their aquatic wildlife around the time of European settlement based on his visit to the region in April 1844.¹ On reaching the ‘low flat shores of Lake Alexandrina, after travelling over the sheoak country beyond the Bremer... the lake appeared intensely blue... the reeds had assumed the yellow garb of autumn, and thousands of birds, pelicans, black swans, and ducks were scattered over the smooth bosom of the water’. Along the shores of the North Lagoon of the Coorong, on the sandy bays between the rocky...

  8. CHAPTER 7 The Coorong Lagoons: Biotic responses to a changed hydrology
    (pp. 127-145)

    Based on natural history observations up until the 1980s, salinity and water level stand out as two key drivers in the ecology of the Coorong lagoons. Salinities typically increase along the Coorong from north to south, vary seasonally and often fluctuate from one year to the next, depending on freshwater flows to the Murray Mouth. Most of the ecological studies from the 1980s onwards aimed to strengthen the relationship between salinity (and to a lesser extent water levels) and the distribution of aquatic plants and animals taking advantage of the salinity gradient along the Coorong lagoons. This chapter provides a...

  9. CHAPTER 8 The Coorong Lagoons: A critical refuge for waterbirds
    (pp. 147-183)

    Over the last decade there have been significant changes to the hydrology of the Coorong that have in turn influenced the distribution and abundance of a range of aquatic organisms that provide food resources for birds. As a general rule, the changes have been more dramatic in the southern Coorong than in the northern Coorong. In the South Lagoon, key components of the food chain, including the once abundant aquatic plantRuppia tuberosa, a key aquatic invertebrate the chironomidTanytarsus barbitarsisand the highly salt-tolerant fish, the Small-mouthed Hardyhead, have all disappeared. Instead Brine Shrimps are now prominent in the...

  10. CHAPTER 9 The Lower Lakes: Wetlands that complement the Coorong
    (pp. 184-211)

    The Lower Lakes and Coorong form the terminal wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin. Together, they form a Wetland of International Importance, along with wetlands associated with the Finniss River and the Tookayerta and Currency Creeks, which flow from the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges into the western side of Lake Alexandrina between Goolwa and Clayton.¹ The Lower Lakes, being fresh, provide a different array of wetlands to the saline wetlands of the Coorong and Murray Estuary, and thus the two wetland systems complement each other. Like the Coorong, the wetlands of the Lower Lakes have changed over time. Those changes can...

  11. CHAPTER 10 The Future of the Coorong and Lower Lakes
    (pp. 213-231)

    The future of the Coorong and Lower Lakes is in our hands. Their immediate fate will ultimately depend on our willingness to allocate and deliver environmental flows to the River in a timely fashion, and on how those are apportioned between other icon sites and assets along the River. Delivering an environmental flow to the River in the 1990s, or even as we entered the twenty-first century, would have been relatively easy compared to today. If we had made that commitment back then, the current state of the Coorong and Lower Lakes, in fact all of the wetland systems within...

  12. Appendix Common and scientific names
    (pp. 232-234)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 238-238)
    David Paton
  14. Cover Photographer
    (pp. 239-239)
    Stavros Pippos