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 2.2. Latrobe system
2.2.2 Lower Latrobe wetlands
System overview
The lower Latrobe wetlands (Dowd Morass, Heart Morass and Sale Common) are an important component of the internationally recognised Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site and provide habitat for a variety of waterbirds of state, national and international conservation significance. The wetlands are located on the floodplain of the Latrobe River between its confluence with the Thomson River, and they form part of the Gippsland Lakes system.
River regulation and water extraction from the Latrobe, Thomson and Macalister rivers has reduced the frequency of small- and medium-sized floods that naturally wet the lower Latrobe wetlands. Construction of levees and drains and filling of natural depressions have also altered water movement into and through the wetlands. The drainage and flooding regime in all three wetlands is now managed to some extent with regulators connected to the Latrobe River.
Environmental values
Sale Common is one of only two remaining freshwater wetlands in the Gippsland Lakes system. It provides sheltered feeding, breeding and resting habitat for a large range of waterbirds, including the Australasian bittern.
Dowd Morass is a large, brackish wetland that regularly supports rookeries of colonial nesting waterbirds including Australian white ibis, straw-necked ibis, little black and little pied cormorants, royal spoonbills and great egrets.
Heart Morass is also a large brackish wetland, with open expanses providing shallow feeding habitat for waterbirds including black swans, Eurasian coots and a variety of ducks.
Together, the lower Latrobe wetlands function as a diverse and complementary ecological system. Colonial nesting waterbirds breed among swamp paperbark trees at Dowd Morass in spring. Migratory shorebirds feed on the mudflats that are exposed as the wetlands draw down and dry
over summer. Waterfowl and fish-eating birds use open- water habitat at the wetlands year-round. The wetlands also support threatened vegetation communities including swamp scrub, brackish herbland and aquatic herbland.
Environmental watering objectives in the lower Latrobe wetlands
     Maintain the abundance of frog populations
   Maintain the abundance of freshwater turtle populations
   Maintain or restore a variety of self-sustaining submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation types
Maintain or restore the diversity, condition and/or extent of native streamside vegetation fringing wetlands
Discourage the introduction and spread, or reduce the extent and density of undesirable/ invasive plants (Sale Common)
     Maintain or enhance waterbird breeding, recruitment, foraging and sheltering opportunities
   Provide suitable physio-chemical conditions to support aquatic life
Avoid catastrophic water quality conditions (such as acid sulfate soil exposure) (Heart Morass)
 Traditional Owner cultural values and uses
The Gunaikurnai have had a continued connection to Gunaikurnai Country for thousands of years, including with the waterways that feed into the lower Latrobe wetlands. For the Gunaikurnai as traditional custodians there are immense challenges to heal, protect and manage Country which has been drastically altered since colonisation. Gunaikurnai see all of Country as connected with no separation between landscapes, waterways, coasts and oceans and natural and cultural resources – the cultural landscape is interdependent.
GLaWAC are working with the West Gippsland CMA to determine how to express Gunaikurnai objectives for water in a way that contributes to seasonal watering proposals from the perspective of traditional custodians, with traditional knowledge.
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