Protecting our precious natural resources matters more than ever before.
Melbourne Water is taking urgent steps to improve the health of our waterways and catchments to boost populations of threatened wildlife and safeguard greater Melbourne’s unique biodiversity.
To meet the challenges of a drying climate and the demands of a growing population, predictive research modelling is being used to understand platypus; where they live, how they might fare under urban growth and climate change and importantly, the type of management actions we can take to protect them into the future.
Rhys Coleman, Manager Waterways & Wetlands Research said, “Our platypus research is helping conservation efforts throughout Greater Melbourne which in turn will protect these iconic mammals. We are fortunate to still have platypus in several of our waterways and in some cases, within urban areas.”
To complement long-term platypus monitoring in the region since the mid-1990s, using netting to capture animals, our research includes the use environmental DNA technology that measures traces of DNA in water samples to determine the presence of platypus populations in our waterways without having to disturb them. Monitoring is fundamental to our conservation efforts – if we do not know where they occur it is much harder to focus efforts to protect them.
“The platypus has been recently classified as near threatened in Victoria and our researchers are using real time techniques to determine how threats like climate change, water availability, riverbank condition, predators, and population growth can guide further environmental works,” Mr Coleman said.
“By incorporating predictive forecasting with data analysis, we can create an integrated system to deliver accurate monitoring and forecasting to track early warning impacts to our platypus populations.”
Many platypus populations in Victoria intersect with greater Melbourne’s peri-urban areas where population growth and urban sprawl has impacted on the waterways they rely on for habitat. Prolonged drought over the past decades has also had an impact on their numbers, particularly small, isolated populations.
“All Victoria’s native wildlife is precious – our commitment in protecting greater Melbourne’s water quality and unique biodiversity in partnership with other organisations and the community is about taking critical steps to build resilience in our natural environment, and support research to understand the risks posed by climate change so aquatic life can thrive, not just survive,” Mr Coleman said.
The centrepiece of this commitment is the Healthy Waterways Strategy 2018-2028 bringing together an integrated framework for managing waterways, across five major catchments within the Port Phillip and Western Port region: Werribee, Maribyrnong, Yarra, Dandenong, and Westernport.
The long-term strategy aims to make our rivers and creeks healthier for future generations of Melbournians, including improving the quality and extent of habitat for native wildlife.
“While Melbourne Water continues to meet the needs of Melburnians today through delivery of our essential services, we are working with the future in mind, using the smarts of our people, our partners and innovative technology to adopt creative solutions to the challenges we face,” Mr Coleman said.