Saving Emu Point’s coastal saltmarsh

The impacts of vehicle tracks on the Emu Point saltmarsh will take years to recover. (Damien Rathbone)

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Efforts have been made to stop drivers accessing the Emu Point saltmarsh as the endangered ecosystem falls victim to vehicle destruction.

South Coast Natural Resource Management and the City of Albany have placed rocks and installed gates across the access routes in an endeavour to rehabilitate the site.

SCNRM regional ecologist Bronte Van Helden said these coastal flats often seemed barren and scrubby in appearance, but had high ecological productivity.

She said they played a vital role in removing carbon from the atmosphere, were a nursery for fish and prawns and a feeding ground for thousands of migratory shorebirds.

The coastal saltmarsh near Emu Point has been severely damaged by unrestricted vehicle access, with large amounts of tyre tracks evident in aerial footage.

Impacts of vehicles

Ms Van Helden said saltmarsh took a long time to regenerate once damaged.

“Until recently, vehicle access was uncontrolled to the area so there was a lot of cars driving all over the coastal salt marsh and basically destroying that habitat,” she said.

“When you drive over salt marsh it completely flattens the vegetation and destroys it.”

“When you drive over salt marsh it completely flattens the vegetation and destroys it.

“It takes years and years for it to regenerate so therefore it is no longer a useful habitat for all those animals that depend on it.”

City of Albany’s reserves manager Jacqui Freeman said they were proud of the collaboration to protect the Coast Saltmarsh Threatened Ecological Community near Emu Point.

“Previously this area has been subject to illegal rubbish dumping and damage caused by off road vehicles, which causes immense trauma to this threatened and slow regenerating vegetation community,” she said.

“The cost of materials and labour has been shared by the project partners, with both City and SCNRM staff monitoring the boundary of this reserve daily to quickly detect any breaches and to reinstate barriers.

“Covert cameras are also being used by City Rangers to assist with the identification of people using the area unlawfully.”

“Covert cameras are also being used by City Rangers to assist with the identification of people using the area unlawfully.”

Emu Point saltmarsh access point with rocks in place. (Bronte Van Helden)

The next phase

Ms Van Helden said future works to instal signage around the area would be their next step in the protection process.

“We are hoping to erect some signs around the place to raise awareness of saltmarsh and help people understand why we are controlling access,” she said.

“It’s a really important ecosystem service which is why it is really important in conserving.”

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage is also helping with the controlled access and the project is being funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

The City encourages the general public to report any suspicious activity by contacting the City on (08) 6820 3000 and asking for the Reserves Team or use the “Report It” function on the City of Albany’s website at www.albany.wa.gov.au.

Alternatively, City of Albany Rangers are available from 8.30am – 4.30pm seven days a week on (08) 6820 3999.

Emu Point Coastal Saltmarsh (Hannah Bannister)

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