Impact of severe flooding on platypuses in McKenzie River

Like many areas in southeastern Australia, the Wimmera region was severely affected by the prolonged drought conditions.

The length and severity of the drought significantly impacted aquatic ecosystems and consequently the distribution and abundance of platypuses.

Widespread surveys conducted by cesar in 2008, on behalf of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (WCMA), found a remnant platypus population in the MacKenzie River.

Since then, cesar and the WCMA have been monitoring the status of this highly significant population and implementing management strategies to conserve this population.

Following the end of the drought in mid 2010, several severe flooding events in late 2010 and early 2011 caused widespread damage in the Grampians National Park and MacKenzie River.

It is poorly understood how platypuses cope with large flooding events and there were concerns over the impact of these floods on the small platypus population in the MacKenzie River.

Extensive surveys conducted by cesar in October 2011 and April 2012 revealed that platypuses continued to persist in the MacKenzie River and the capture rates (as an indicator of population density), although low, were similar to results from recent pre-flood surveys.

The lower reaches of the river, which have received quite low flows for an extended period, may have actually benefited from the high flow events and improved platypus habitat in this area.

As a result of this work at MacKenzie River the platypus found its way into several local media outlets, generating plenty of community interest in this very unique animal.

Cover image: Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

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