Landcare sites in Lake Macquarie occur in a diverse range of environments including wetland sites, riparian sites, coastal sites, rainforest sites, bushland sites and foreshore sites.
Wetlands are areas that are covered or saturated with water temporarily or permanently. The water is usually slow moving or still and can be fresh, brackish (slightly salty) or saline (salt water). Wetlands support unique plant and animal communities. Wetland plants such as rushes and mangroves grow in shallow water, while others such as paperbarks, swamp mahogany and she-oaks can tolerate “wet feet” and grow around the fringes of wetlands. Frogs, waterbirds, prawns, fish, crabs and many insects rely on wetlands and saltmarshes.
There are more than 50 major natural wetlands in the Lake Macquarie region. Natural
wetlands vary depending on the saltiness of the water. Types include:
- Saline wetlands adjoin the lake or ocean and contain only saltwater. The main vegetation communities are mangrove and saltmarsh. Examples of these wetlands are Swansea Bridge, Black Neds Bay, Five Islands, Stingaree Point and Galgabba Point.
- Freshwater wetlands are filled by creek and groundwater systems and support reed swamp and rushes. They are often surrounded by paperbarks, swamp mahogany and tea-tree. Examples of these wetlands are Jewells Swamp and parts of Belmont Lagoon.
- Brackish wetlands can change between salt and fresh water depending on the water flowing into the wetlands. They are usually surrounded by Swamp She-oaks and paperbarks. Examples of this type of wetland are Muddy Lake, Toronto Wetlands and wetlands around Cockle Creek.
- Constructed wetlands are designed primarily for improving the quality of stormwater runoff. By filtering stormwater, wetlands can help reduce pollutants entering Lake Macquarie and other waterways. Constructed wetlands mimic natural systems and work by slowing the water flow using plants and other structures. The plants trap pollutants, and microorganisms assist to process them as sediment settles to the bottom. Council has constructed a number of wetlands throughout the City including Croudace Bay, Warners Bay, Toronto, Booragul and Glendale.
For further information about the importance of wetlands and their threats and protection see Lake Macquarie City Council’s Factsheet 8 Caring for our Streams and Wetlands
An important part of all watercourses is the area of land adjacent to the waterway which is known as the riparian zone. Native vegetation along watercourses (including the creek bank) is vital to maintaining these areas in a good condition.
Where this vegetation is damaged or removed, the stream condition can deteriorate and downstream water quality can suffer. Riparian zones and waterways play an important role in our environment including:
- Providing habitat for plants and animals, including a number of rare or endangered species.
- Reducing pollutant loads by helping to filter litter, sediment, and excess nutrients from stormwater runoff; helping to maintain the quality of our Lake and beaches.
- Shading watercourses, to control water temperature and prevent excess growth of water plants.
- Providing vital breeding habitat and nursery areas for fish and other aquatic species.
- Offering a natural landscape for all to enjoy for relaxation or recreation.
When we picture a creek or waterway we often think of rock pools and waterfalls bursting with vegetation and wildlife. In many areas of our catchment, waterways remain a picturesque part of the environment, but in other areas this is no longer the case. In many developed areas there is a trend to pipe or modify creeks and waterways, to transport run-off as quickly as possible. This effectively eliminates the waterway’s natural ability to improve water quality before it enters the Lake or the ocean. While modified drainage channels and waterways may be limited, they still play an important role, and can benefit from our care and protection.
For further information about the importance of streams and their threats and protection see Lake Macquarie City Council’s Factsheet 8 Caring for our Streams and Wetlands
Beaches and sand dunes are fragile, dynamic environments, easily eroded by severe storms, wave action and human impact. Native vegetation binds the soil and sand providing dune stability and a safe habitat for local fauna.
Coastal plants, like all plants, have a function in the environment. Plant roots help to bind and hold soil and sand together and they provide shelter, homes and food for animals. The beachfront, rock platforms and cliffs are the first point of attack on our coastline by severe storms that may cause coastline erosion. Cliffs and rock platforms, while containing relatively little vegetation, are structurally equipped to resist coastal erosion. However, vegetation on rocky cliffs is still vital to preserving the long-term integrity of our coastline.
Beaches and sand dunes are particularly fragile and dynamic environments; they are easily eroded by severe storms and wave action as part of a natural cycle of erosion and sand accumulation. The vegetation on sand dunes is critical to help bind sand together and stabilise sand dunes. This prevents wind action on the loose sand accelerating natural erosion rates. Paths formed by people walking, or driving, over the vegetation on sand dunes damages dune vegetation, contributing to dune and beach erosion.
For examples of the different habitats and vegetation communities that exist along Lake Macquarie’s
coastline, as well as plant species that typically occur along Lake Macquarie’s coastline, refer to the Lake Macquarie Coastal Planting Guide, available from Lake Macquarie City Council or at www.lakemac.com.au.
Rainforests are characterised by a closed and continuous tree canopy with a variety of broad-leaved evergreen trees. They occur in areas that are reliably moist, free from fire and have moderate to highly fertile soils.
The remnant rainforest communities of the Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and Port Stephens Local Government Area tend to exist as relatively small and isolated pockets of rainforest species amongst a broader landscape of Open Forest reserves and coastal development.
Further information on rainforests can be found at www.environment.nsw.gov.au
Our bushland sites include forest and woodland environments. Forest is defined by particular vegetation types and includes wet forests and dry forests, and their associated communities. Wet sclerophyll forests are located on the eastern slopes of the Watagan Mountains and often surround areas of rainforest. Dry sclerophyll forests are located on drier sites, often with poor quality soils, and may be more commonly located on a north or west-facing slope. Woodland typically occurs in the drier and/or less fertile areas of the City and is characterised by shorter, broader trees.
Lake Macquarie has 174 km of foreshore which is a dynamic part of the landscape, forming the boundary between the lake and its catchment. A healthy foreshore has many values: providing habitat, stabilising soil, filtering stormwater, buffering waves and currents, and providing a pleasant place for living and recreation. However, these values are threatened by misuse and mismanagement. It is important we find a balance in our use of the lake’s foreshore so all its values can be protected, maintained and enjoyed.
For further information on the threats and the management of our foreshore reserves see Lake Macquarie City Council’s Foreshore Guide for Residents – Living on the Edge