Ecology at HWCA
Shortland Wetlands is jointly listed with Kooragang Nature Reserve as the Hunter Estuary Ramsar Wetland site. Shortland Wetlands meets 4 of the 8 characteristics, which place the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia as an internationally significant wetlands.
In 2005, components of Shortland Wetlands were listed as an Endangered Ecological Community by the NSW Scientific Committee. This listing was given due to our Freshwater Wetland on Coastal Floodplains.
The Hunter Wetlands Centre therefore offers visitors the experience of seeing threatened flora and fauna communities in their region and state on both Ramsar and Endangered Ecological Community listed sites.
Staff and volunteers at the Hunter Wetlands Centre manage Shortland Wetlands to protect and enhance its natural values. The site provides a range of important ecological processes that help maintain sustainability in Newcastle.
Wetlands are known as “hotspots” for biodiversity. The interface of aquatic and terrestrial habitats and variety of vegetation communities supporting a high diversity of wildlife.
Shortland Wetlands supports many species of birds, mammals, frogs, fish, and reptiles, despite being surrounded by an urban landscape with its associated impacts. For more information on specific animals, follow these links:
As with most reclaimed areas there will be introduced species both fauna and flora.
Introduced animals that occur at The Wetlands Centre and which pose the most serious threat to native fauna include:
Black Rat (Rattus rattus),
House Mouse (Mus musculus),
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes),
Domestic Cat (Felis catus),
Common Myna (Acridotheres tristus),
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris,
Mosquito Fish (Gambusia holbrooki).
The Black Rat and House Mouse breed prolifically especially after rainfall events. These species are most abundant in and around the feed distribution areas. Apart from the threat of both of these species spreading disease, the Black Rat poses a threat to shore-breeding birds, shorebirds, and the Long-necked Tortoise by predating eggs and nestlings.
Red Foxes as well feral cats and dogs gain entry to Shortland Wetlands via the wildlife corridor at Ironbark Creek and at the canoe channel site.
Their main target is the Melaleuca Swamp Forest and they have been recorded preying on juvenile Egrets that nest at high densities within the forest .
Red Foxes also pose a threat to other species such as ground nesting and ground feeding bird species.
A predator-proof fence surrounds the other 3 sides of the site was contructed in 2009
Brown Hares also occur on site and their preference for new grass shoots and newly planted trees as a source of food poses a threat to the regeneration of vegetation. Along with rabbits, they present competition for grazing, protective cover and habitat, and can be a threatening process to some native fauna and avi-fauna.
In 2009 permission was gained to commence fox baiting on site. The program involves three rounds per year at key control times including one to coincide with the commencement of egret breeding.
This has significantly reduced the incidence of fox, feral cat and dog predation on site. A comprehensive monitoring program is in place to ensure it is effective.
Baiting for rabbits and hares commenced in 2013 due to their population has tended to increase as a result of a reduction in foxes.
For more information on control of rabbits click Rabbit fact
The Shortland Wetlands complex includes coastal freshwater lagoons and marshes and non-tidal freshwater forested wetlands. The site has benefited from a continuous management regime which has guided the creation of artificial wetlands and rehabilitation of degraded wetlands over 23 years. The Site Management Plan 2002 – 2009 combined with the Ecological Character Description of Shortland Wetlands Private Ramsar Site (2006) detail the management objectives of HWCA.
The successful rehabilitation work has supported the development of significant ecological values, some specific to the site and others which enhance values represented in the Hunter Estuary. Over 60,000 native plants have been planted on site, transforming the site from wasteland to world recognised habitat.
The wetlands also provide important habitat for a diverse range of animals throughout all seasons including water birds, frogs, invertebrates and fish. Water-loving plants include sedges, rushes and various tree species such as Swamp Mahogany. For a full list of flora and fauna see our Site Management Plan 2002- 2009.
The site is a receptor for stormwater and provides a natural processing system for this discharge. In this way, Shortland Wetlands acts like the kidneys of the landscape, filtering impurities in the water that would otherwise pollute our creeks, rivers and oceans. The wetlands act as settling ponds, reducing turbidity and sedimentation in the receiving waters of Ironbark Creek and the Hunter Estuary. They also mitigate peak stormwater flows, reducing the velocity of water within the site and maintaining ecological flows to the receiving waters.
As an ever evolving ecosystem Shortland Wetlands provides an educational experience for tens of thousands of visitors and students each year. As a community facility HWCA offers people a range of ways to immerse oneself in nature from strolls on the boardwalks, walks on the sensory trail (for the disabled and visually impaired), to golf buggies, canoes, kayaks, guided and self-guided tours to volunteering with one of the many onsite conservation teams including the:
Thursday Mob Landcare Group
Wetlands Wonder Weeders Landcare Group
Shortland Wetlands Weed Attack Team
Butcherbird Gully Landcare Group
Work for the Dole
Over a period of many years, the wetlands has transformed into a truly remarkable place to be and see nature in the wild.