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Bushlands dams

Prior to subdivision, the Chewton Bushlands (Bushlands) was an area of hilly, degraded land following deforestation and exploration during the gold rush of the 1850s and again during the 1940s and had no significant areas of standing water. Now, the bushlands is an area of regrowth forest and every property in the bushlands has a dam that was constructed as part of the original 1974 subdivision. These dams form artificial reservoirs on the ephemeral watercourses that travel through the valleys of the Bushlands and have impacted the quantity and diversity of plants and animals the bushlands can support. Our dams are used by residents for garden and other water uses and enjoyed as a landscape or environmental feature and by wildlife for breeding, refuge, food (for grazers, hunters and their prey), drink, residence and/or bathing. The water in the dams comes from springs, seepage, rain, road runoff and slope runoff and can be clear, tannin stained or muddy. Dams with better habitat provided by rocks, timber (small, large or hollow), leaf litter and plants will have more numerous and diverse wildlife and plants and better quality water.

The area surrounding waterways and dams is the riparian environment. The plants that live in this environment exist in zones. These zones can be thought of as submerged, shallow water, margin, filter and stream/damside. The submerged zone plants live totally in  the water. In the shallow water zone, plants have their roots permanently in the water but extend above the water. Margin plants exist along the damp edges of dams and water courses, may or may not be rooted in the water and are subject to intermittent inundation and dryer periods. Plants in this zone offer structural protection to the dam, minimising the effects of wave action and wildlife on the banks. In the streamside zone plants may occasionally be subject to inundation but survive well without, this zone plays a major role for wildlife offering shelter and protection for wildlife utilising the dam. The dam bank falls within this zone and should be kept clear of trees whose roots can impact the structural integrity of the dam bank or cause leakage. The filter zone plants help to trap debris flowing in to the water thus improving the quality of the water and minimising silting. Plants from each of these zones are often found shared between multiple zones.

All of the animals and birds listed in other sections of this book need water and one of the easiest ways to see wildlife is quiet observation near our dams. Amphibious animals have a greater relationship with water, use our dams not just for drinking, remain in close proximity to water and may move between dams. These include adult insects, ducks and wading birds, frogs, turtles, rakali, yabbies, and some leeches.

Rewilding Project

In 2019 the Chewton Bushlands Association (CBA) applied for and received a grant from Mount Alexander Shire Council to go towards a rewilding project to investigate and demonstrate how a dam can be ‘retrofitted’ to provide benefits to the environment, wildlife. residents and the wider community. This project, undertaken by residents at working bees, took place over 2020/2021 (suffering delays due to the ‘Covid epidemic’) and the property used continues to be monitored to record the ongoing benefits of the project.

In December 2022 this dam was selected to take part in the recovery program for the endangered Southern purple spotted gudgeon because of water quality, temperature, access to abundant food and vegetation and absence of predatory fish. Over 100 gudgeon  up to 2cm long were installed and in February 2023 fish were recaptured measuring over 8cm and in April 2023 a fish over 9cm was recaptured, fantastic results for the dam!

Contributor: Wayne Hollis

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