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5.2.2 Gunbower Creek and Forest
System overview
Gunbower Forest is a large, flood-dependent forest situated on the Murray River floodplain in northern Victoria between Torrumbarry and Koondrook (Figure 5.2.2).
Covering 19,450 ha, it is bounded by the Murray River
to the north and Gunbower Creek to the south. It is an internationally significant site under the Ramsar Convention and forms part of the Living Murray Gunbower-Koondrook- Perricoota forests icon site. River regulation and water extraction from the Murray River and Gunbower Creek has reduced the frequency, duration and magnitude of flood events in Gunbower Forest. This has affected the extent and condition of floodplain habitats and the health of plant and animal communities (such as river red gum and black box communities, native fish, birds, platypus, frogs and turtles) that depend on those habitats.
Gunbower Creek is natural creek that has been modified
to supply irrigation water from the Murray River to the Torrumbarry Irrigation Area. There are twelve lagoons, largely located in the upper reaches of the creek system, that are permanently or seasonally connected to Gunbower Creek. Water for the environment is used in Gunbower Creek to improve habitat for native fish, especially Murray cod.
The Living Murray environmental works program in the middle and lower forest was completed in 2013. The works allow up to 4,500 ha of the wetlands and floodplain to be watered with considerably less water than would
be required if the watering infrastructure was not in place. The works enable efficient watering through Gunbower Creek and the forest to maintain wetland and floodplain condition and provide connectivity between the creek, forest floodplain and the Murray River. Frequent connections between the river and floodplain habitats allow biota to move between habitats and support critical ecosystem functions (such as carbon exchange).
Environmental values
Gunbower Forest contains many important environmental values. It includes rare and diverse wetland habitats and large areas of remnant vegetation communities (such as river red gum forest and woodlands). It is also home to vulnerable and endangered plants and animals including river swamp wallaby-grass, wavy marshwort, Murray- Darling rainbowfish, eastern great and intermediate egrets. It also supports internationally recognised migratory waterbird species.
Gunbower Creek provides important habitat for native fish (such as Murray cod, golden perch and freshwater catfish). It is a valuable refuge for native fish, and it provides a source of fish to recolonise surrounding waterways.
Environmental watering objectives in Gunbower Creek and Forest
5.2 Victorian Murray system
    Provide feeding, breeding and refuge habitat for small-bodied native fish (such as Murray-Darling rainbow fish) in forest wetlands
Maintain and improve populations of large- bodied native fish (such as Murray cod) in Gunbower Creek
     Provide suitable feeding, breeding and refuge habitat for frogs
   Provide suitable feeding, breeding and refuge habitat for turtles
   Support carbon and nutrient cycles in the forest and wetlands and periodically deliver carbon and nutrients from the forest to adjacent waterways to support food webs
   Maintain and improve the health and increase the abundance of native vegetation in permanent and semi-permanent wetlands
Improve the health of river red gums, black box and grey box communities
    Provide feeding, breeding and refuge habitat for waterbirds including colonial nesting species (such as egrets, cormorants and herons)
    Maintain and improve water quality in Gunbower Creek
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