October 13, 2023

River restoration secured with ongoing grant

Alcoa Senior Partnerships Advisor Sally Fairnie, Greening Australia Senior Program Officer Ross Wylie, and Harry Butler Institute Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems Deputy Director Associate Professor Stephen Beatty. Picture: Jesse Collins

A restoration and monitoring project to reverse degradation of the Harvey River will continue for a further three years with funding from the Alcoa Foundation awarded to Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute.

The grant will allow the Harry Butler Institute to build on the works facilitated by Greening Australia over the past three years to restore river function and biodiversity to the lower reaches of the Harvey River.

The latest funding brings the Alcoa Foundation’s total commitment to the restoration of the Harvey River to more than AU$750,000.

The program, which involves collaboration between the Harvey River Restoration Taskforce, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, scientists, the local community, landholders and Traditional Owners, aims to recreate a more natural water course and encourage flora establishment and fauna return.

Since 2020, more than 15,000 seedlings have been planted along the riverbanks, while 27 large log structures were installed in 2021 to a section of the river to mimic fallen trees and create pockets of cooler water that enable aquatic life to survive during summer months.

Alcoa Foundation President Caroline Rossignol said it was pleasing to see the program continue.

“The Harry Butler Institute has been involved in delivery of various aspects of the program over the past three years and given the success of the current Alcoa Foundation partnership with Greening Australia – which has seen some very positive results to date – we are delighted to continue our support,” Ms. Rossignol said.

Harry Butler Institute’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems Deputy Director, Associate Professor Stephen Beatty, said a key part of the program was pre and post monitoring of the aquatic fauna at the restoration sites and comparisons with control sites.

“Our research team commenced monitoring in 2021, just prior to the restoration, and this funding will ensure we can determine longer term ecological changes,” Professor Beatty pointed out.

Results have been very positive, with a significant increase in the diversity of macroinvertebrates being recorded at the restoration sites. The team also detected the iconic Smooth Marron at a restoration site, which is notable as the species was thought to have gone extinct in this section of the Harvey River.

“Marron like to live around submerged wood so the structures that have been introduced to the river provide valuable habitat for them,” Professor Beatty explained. “It was exciting to have detected them at the structures following their installation.”

The team aims to continue making strides in their quest to understand ecological impacts on the river’s ecosystem. Professor Beatty was unequivocal in his appreciation of the foundation’s support. “We are grateful for the support of Alcoa Foundation so we can continue to demonstrate the benefits of restoring the channelised section of the Harvey River.”