A new report from Deakin University has highlighted the critical role that wetland environments play in capturing and storing carbon.
Until recently, investigations of the capacity of wetlands to store carbon have focussed on coastal, or "blue carbon", wetlands. But in fact, recent estimates identify freshwater swamps, marshes, and peatlands as major stores of terrestrial carbon.
"While a lot is known about how trees suck up and store carbon, freshwater wetlands are actually capable of storing in their soils 30 to 40 times more carbon than forests," Dr Carnell said.
"Freshwater wetlands contain almost a third of the terrestrial soil carbon pool, despite only occupying eight percent of the land surface, which is pretty amazing.
"In Victoria alone, freshwater wetlands lock away substantial amounts of carbon – estimated at three million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year! This is the equivalent to annual emissions produced by over 185,000 people, or roughly three percent of the state’s population."
Victoria’s system of two hundred State Game Reserves ostensibly protects over 75,000 ha of these important ecosystems – an area equivalent in size to that of the Alpine National Park.
A 2016 audit by the Game Management Authority revealed a number of management challenges and deficiencies.
Neighboring landholder encroachment, in the form of livestock grazing, cropping, firewood collection and rubbish dumping was prevalent and evident on 48% of reserves. Ninety percent of State Game Reserves have no infrastructure (excluding fencing and signage). Water control structure/s exist on 23 reserves, 20 of which could be utilised for water delivery to the reserve.
Work has been completed under the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan to improve access to State Game Reserves through signage and a trial program is currently underway to improve State Game Reserve habitat.
The Australian Deer Association led a project which planted over 45,000 native trees at the Clydebank Morass State Game Reserve, transforming the reserve from neglected former farmland and improving habitat, water quality and the general experience for hunters and other tourists.
The Deakin University work underscores the ‘triple bottom line’ benefits of investing in and improving these iconic oases.