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Fencing helps saltmarsh flourish

Saltmarsh protected by fencing on Palmers Island. Image: Contributed.

On a flat and quiet piece of farmland on Palmers Island the low riverbanks were slowly eroding away.
The steady but ongoing movement of small, wind-driven waves were chipping away at this ecologically important piece of land owned by the Johnson family.
In partnership with Clarence Valley Council, coir (coconut fibre) logs were installed along the bank to act as a buffer between the land and river waves and stabilise the bank. It worked. The river bank is now much more stable and vegetation is returning.
The Johnsons are now taking the rehabilitation one step further. They have allowed council staff to install a fence around some of the more environmentally sensitive areas to help an important plant community of saltmarsh to re-establish.
Council natural resource management project officer, Heather Mitchell, said saltmarsh might not look like much but was important in providing habitat for juvenile fish and wading birds.
“It often escaped people’s notice, but saltmarsh also plays an important role to play in protecting river banks from erosion,” she said.
“It is considered endangered in NSW, with weed infestation, draining for agriculture and cattle grazing some of its biggest threats.
“Fencing off grazing cattle to protect saltmarsh is one method that has proven to be successful in the Clarence.
“Over 18 months on Palmers Island, cattle were excluded from a section of saltmarsh that was severely eroding, and photo monitoring was undertaken to determine the effect this had on plant growth.
“The results showed that saltmarsh more than doubled in height when protected from grazing, with no further erosion taking place. Council is certainly grateful the Johnsons are helping this happen. They allowed a section of their grazing land to be sectioned off to help improve the environment for everyone. They should be congratulated.”
Landowner Debbie Johnson said she was impressed with the results achieved from fencing the area off.
“With the cows kept off the saltmarsh, it has really grown quite well. The erosion has stopped, and the fencing looks good too,” she said.
Ms Mitchell said that after these successful results, further fencing had been installed and similar results were expected. Funding for the fencing was provided by Local Land Services.