SSEC logo Sutherland Shire Environment Centre  

Submission regarding preliminary determination on: Coastal saltmarsh in the NSW North Coast , Sydney Basin and SE Corner bioregions

We support the decision by the Scientific Committee to consider coastal saltmarsh for listing as an endangered ecological community. In particular we note the importance of the habitat for migratory birds, crabs, fish and macropods; the problems caused by burning in the upper reaches of the saltmarsh and the use of the saltmarsh for rubbish dumping and as stormwater outfalls.

The lack of knowledge about the nature and condition of coastal wetlands is substantial and, while it is known that human activities such as drainage can cause a decline in in-shore habitats, the extent to which these activities have affected coastal ecosystems has not been comprehensively monitored across NSW. This lack of management and monitoring is worrying since the coastal strip is where most of population density and development is increasing. A determination by the Scientific Committee will help to focus attention and resources on this very important and under-managed ecosystem.

Several points need to be especially stressed in the determination:

•  Need to include saltmarsh communities found on cliffs or on exposed headlands : According to Adam et al (1988), these communities are "floristically identical to those of intertidal salt marsh". Given the many impacts on intertidal salt marsh, the cliff and exposed headland communities may provide vitally important sources for on-going colonisation of the intertidal zones. At least the two communities should not be separated in the determination until it has been scientifically determined that such colonisation does not occur.

•  Pressure of recreational activities: The preliminary determination rightly points out that damage caused to saltmarshes by recreational vehicles is a significant problem. Bikes (BMX and mountain) are specifically mentioned, but we believe that the impacts of 4WD vehicles should also be specifically mentioned, as well as the impact of walkers. With regard to the latter, walkers (such as fishers and bushwalkers) will tend to follow a certain path through saltmarsh, compacting the soil over time and preventing regrowth. Such pathways tend to act as an ongoing attractant for both human activities and animal access. Foxes, especially, like access through such opened areas.

•  Pressure from invasive species: The preliminary determination notes the adverse impacts of invasive species (under 8). We believe that feral animal disturbance should be specifically added to the list of "including". Feral animals are a significant problem. For example, deer cause much damage to saltmarsh in the Port Hacking area through trampling and feeding. As well, foxes and cats predate on migratory birds and crustaceans that form an integral part of the ecology of the saltmarsh.

•  Loss of buffer zones: We believe it would be appropriate to note that buffers to the saltmarsh community should be established. Edge effects are a well-known phenomena and effect the integrity of the whole of the ecology, enabling invasion through areas that might otherwise have acted as a barrier or fostered the unique saltmarsh ecology.

Inappropriate management of saltmarsh areas from local and state governments have lead to damage of saltmarsh areas. By allowing the public to build on the area, not monitoring illegal dumping and not having an exclusion zone around the saltmarsh, as well as not expending the resources to keep these unique systems free of invasion by inappropriate species, we have put this rich habitat at risk as well as endangered our obligations under the CAMBA and JAMBA agreements.

We applaud the steps being taken by the Committee.