About The Wetlands
By Ryan Liew (Port Environment Centre Volunteer)
The Barker Inlet Wetlands are situated 12km northwest of the Adelaide CBD, near Wingfield and adjacent to the Salisbury Highway. The Wetlands span 172 hectares and can hold a maximum water capacity of 1200 megalitres –equivalent to more than 500 Olympic swimming pools.
Initially constructed to address various environmental impacts in the region and create a habitat for wildlife, the construction of the Barker Inlet Wetlands commenced in 1994, funded by the Commonwealth Government. In 1998, the Wetlands were officially handed over to the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.
The Barker Inlet Wetlands form part of a larger network that includes the Greenfields and Connector Wetlands in Salisbury, along with the Range and Magazine Creek Wetlands in Gillman. Together, these interconnected wetlands cover a substantial 337 hectares, making them the largest constructed wetlands in the country.
Beyond their sheer size and capacity, the wetlands play a crucial role in addressing environmental concerns in the area, serving as a dedicated habitat for wildlife. Today, the Wetlands are home to over 50 species of local terrestrial plants, 12 aquatic plants, 130 bird species, and other animals such as the rakali and Murray short-necked turtle.
Wildlife Projects within the Wetlands
Yellowish Sedge Skipper Recovery Project
The Yellowish Sedge Skipper (Hesperilla flavescens), a formerly locally extinct butterfly has returned to Adelaide. The species was last seen in metropolitan Adelaide over 30 years ago. The butterfly disappeared due to urban and horticultural development which resulted in the loss of the Skipper’s much-loved food and home of thatching grass (Gahnia filum).
Skipper larvae and butterflies are now being relocated back to Adelaide thanks to 20 years of plantings of thatching grass. Gahnia filum has been strategically planted throughout the wetlands to assist the reintroduction of the butterfly.
The Yellowish Sedge Skipper is formally classified as a skipper, belonging to the category of smaller, day-flying butterflies. Its name is derived from its distinctive flying style, characterized by rapid and ‘skipping’ movements. Skippers are particularly special because they solely inhabit the coastal wetlands of South Australia and Victoria.
Beyond their aesthetic contribution to our gardens, threatened butterflies like the Yellowish Sedge Skipper play a crucial role in our ecosystem. As native pollinators, they actively contribute to plant growth, serving as essential components for fostering a healthy environment. A recent study by the Australian Entomological Society revealed that the Yellowish Sedge Skipper is among more than twenty butterflies at risk of extinction by 2040.
In early 2022, a small release of the Yellowish Sedge Skipper took place. Unfortunately, the colony did not thrive, likely due to poor plant health during the summer months. To address this challenge, the planting of Gahnia trifida has been initiated in the semi-aquatic zones. Trifida, known for maintaining lushness in warmer weather, is considered a more suitable host plant for the Skipper.
Despite setbacks, the Yellowish Sedge Skipper recovery project continues within the Greenfields wetlands with plans to do further releases in the Barker Inlet Wetlands as the plants mature. Find out more about the Yellowish Sedge Skipper here.
Introduction of Tea-Tree Mistletoes
The Tea-Tree Mistletoe (Amyema melaleucae) is a native semi-parasitic flowering plant that relies on a host for water and nutrients. It is a crucial host for several significant butterfly species, including the Wood White (Delias aganippe) and Satin Azure (Ogyris amaryllis meridionalis). Additionally, it produces fruit that is a food source for birds.
Earlier this year, Green Adelaide and the biodiversity team conducted a trial introducing the Tea-Tree Mistletoe. The trial involved two host species, the Dryland Tea-Tree (Melaleuca lanceolata) and the Salt Paper-Bark (Melaleuca halmaurorum). At this stage, the introduction has proven successful, with the Mistletoe successfully attaching to both host species.
Find out more about the importance of mistletoes here.
A Home to the Rakali
The Barker Inlet Wetlands is home to a large population of healthy Rakali (Hydromys chrygaster). Also known as the Water Rat and ‘Australia’s otter’, the Rakali is one of only two amphibious mammals in Australia (the other being the Platypus).
Rakali are a top predator, and their presence is a good indicator of a healthy waterway. If they are present, a diverse range of other animals in the food chain must also be available to support them. As a carnivore, the Rakali feed on a wide variety of fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. They also consume birds, mammals, frogs, reptiles, mussels and spiders.
The Rakali are very playful and exhibit remarkable intelligence. Watch a playful Rakali spoted in the Barker Inlet area here.
Other Projects in the Area
Several other projects and activities are happening in the Barker Inlet area.
The City of Port Adelaide Enfield has begun planting Bitter Bush (Adriana quadripartite) within the wetlands to boost the Bitterbush Blue Butterfly (Theclinesthes albocincta) habitat and population as the species has decreased in numbers in Adelaide. The species can typically be found within coastal areas and will only use the Bitter Bush as its host plant.
They also recently started a Hydroseeding trial utilising only native grasses within a section of the Barker Inlet.
There are different opportunities to get involved within the Barker Inlet Wetlands. From hands-on habitat restoration to active involvement in wildlife monitoring, volunteers play a crucial role in preserving the ecological richness of the wetland.
Volunteering with AUSMAP
AUSMAP is a national citizen science project that collects scientific data to map microplastic pollution hotspots around Australia and discover effective remediation strategies.
The Barker Inlet and Carp Pond have the highest loads of microplastics in the country. AUSMAP have been sampling at the Barker Inlet Wetlands with their citizen scientists and in conjunction with the Port Adelaide Enfield council since 2019.
Most of the plastics found in the wetlands come from the upstream industrial areas and AUSMAP is currently working with local councils to try and improve this situation.
AUSMAP is always looking for more volunteers to help collect, sort, and count microplastic samples. Visit AUSMAP’s website or reach out to them directly to get involved.
Conservation Volunteers Australia
Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) is an environmental organisation that engages community volunteers as future stewards in environmental restoration, repair and replanting projects.
CVA has recently been involved with the Yellowish Sedge Skipper restoration project where 600 Gahnia filum seedlings were planted in the southernmost lagoon at the wetlands. Clean-ups have been occurring within the area, with more plantings scheduled for 2024.
PAE Citizen Science
Within the Barker Inlet Wetlands, City of Port Adelaide Enfield citizen science volunteers are helping to monitor changes to bird life over time by regularly observing and recording birds as part of their Flora & Fauna Monitoring Project.
Every season, citizen science volunteers visit several sites including the Barker Inlet Wetlands to conduct ongoing surveys and keep count of the birds within each area.
If you enjoy exploring the outdoors and spotting birds, join the PAE citizen science team to share your findings with real scientists. Your discoveries will make a big difference in understanding and taking care of our planet.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Accessing the Wetlands
The wetlands are tucked away in the backstreets of Dry Creek. The best access point is from Magazine Road (to the south of the Salisbury Highway). Note there is no access to Magazine Road from the Salisbury Highway, and instead you need to enter from Henschke Street.
Barker Inlet Wetlands – Stephen Langman (ExplorOz); Naturally South Australia
Yellowish Sedge Skipper – Matt Endacott (Green Adelaide)
Tea-Tree Mistletoe – ExplorOz
Wood White Butterfly – Danny Millbanks
Rakali – @leo_qbn (Twitter/X)
Bitter Bush – Surf Coast Nature Search
Bitterbush Blue Butterfly – Andy Young (Green Adelaide)