Multiple Benefits for Farm Dam Enhancement

Farm dams have been constructed throughout the region with the main focus of boosting water storage capacity for stock water and irrigation. However, these farm dams, when carefully managed, can play a similar role to natural wetlands – helping restore biodiversity by providing much needed wetland habitat for native wildlife.

Additionally, farm dams can play a major role in global carbon cycling through the breakdown of organic material and release of greenhouse gases. Recent research has found that dams in poor condition are the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters of all freshwater ecosystems in Australia, producing the equivalent to 385,000 cars each day in Victoria alone. These farm dams are those that are uncontrolled water points for livestock. These activities can lead to heavy dam pollution with urine, faeces, soil & vegetation disturbance, and causing erosion of the dam walls. This can be recognised as reduced ground cover, cloudy or discoloured water, and reduced stock health and resilience.

A recent article on the research can be found here – https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/news-and-media-releases/articles/why-fencing-farm-dams-is-good-for-the-climate

With the additional benefits of clean water source for livestock and irrigation and improved water retention, healthy dams are a great natural asset for your farm.

Enhancing Your Dam

Conventional open and treeless farm dams can be modified in several key ways to greatly improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

Figure sourced from Sustainable Farms Brochure 8.2 (2021).

  1. Exclude or limit livestock access

Establish fences to exclude or limit stock access to the dam. This reduces fouling from faeces and pugging, limits sedimentation of the dam, and enables persistence of vegetation around the dam

  1. Provide alternative access to water via a trough or hardened access point.

Water from fenced dams can be piped to troughs.

However, if a backup supply of water is required when troughs can’t be checked, partially-fencing a dam can allow limited stock access. In this case, a hardened access point can minimize pugging and sedimentation, as well as reducing the amount of time stock spend in or on the edge of the water.

  1. Revegetate

Once a dam is fenced, vegetation will begin to regrow naturally. This can be supplemented with strategic planting or seeding. In particular, riparian and wetland vegetation might need a helping hand to re-establish, particularly if the dam is a long way from other water bodies.

  1. Add habitat structures

Islands, either solid or floating, provide safe nesting sites for waterbirds and turtles away from predators like foxes. The addition of semi-submerged timber (snags) in a dam provide great habitat for native fish, basking sites for animals such as turtles, and acoustic platform for calling frogs.

Build it and they shall come!

A healthy dam can support many different plants, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, crustaceans and more. Having good water quality and a diversity of vegetation and natural structures, creates habitat and provides food for different species. These dam features and species together will start to create its own complex food web, allowing your dam environment to stay healthy and a hotspot for biodiversity.

Some species you may find in and around a healthy dam.

Understanding the zones in and around a farm dam

Once a dam is fenced and livestock access is controlled, vegetation will begin to grow from the existing seedbank. In some cases planting native seedlings may be required if a seed source is missing for sometime and to enhance the diversity  and structure of the vegetation.

The following breaks down a farm dam into the several dam vegetation zones to support you with dam restoration activities.

Information sourced from Sustainable Farms Brochure 8.2 (2021).

Revegetation species list

Below is a list of some of the species you can use for revegetating your dam. All species are propagated at the Noosa Landcare nursery. Contact our friendly staff to check availability and stock numbers – nursery@noosalandcare.org or 0419 377 423. For our full nursery stock list click here. Please note that this is not a complete list, rather an insight of some common wetland and waterway vegetation within the various zones of a dam here in the Noosa Region.

For more information on dam health and restoration activities feel free to contact ilana.kelly@noosalandcare.org