Sea-level rise as a result of climate change could dramatically affect the freshwater wetlands of the Arafura Swamp, with most of the wetlands lying less than a metre above sea level. According to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, sea-levels in northern Australia have been rising between 7 and 10 mm each year. This is much greater than the sea-level rise in southern Australia and is two to three times greater than the global average. Gurruwiling is a major source of bush tucker, providing water birds, fish, turtles, and eggs, as well as edible plants such as waterlilies. Managing wetlands in accordance with traditional law also provides a way to pass on ecological and cultural knowledge to younger generations. Vegetation loss and soil erosion resulting from feral animals, vehicle traffic and wildfire all leave the swamp more susceptible to sea-level rise due to climate change.
We cannot stop climate change by ourselves, but we are doing our part by managing fire better and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We can control buffalo and reduce the channelling that lets saltwater further into freshwater places. We can’t stop natural disasters like cyclones, but we can have a plan to help country become healthy again.
We all know that the sea level is rising and will affect all coastal wetlands but maybe if we save some of them, we will still have something for the future to show and tell about. All will be lost if we don’t act soon.
Solomon O’Ryan ASRAC Ranger