Barmah National Park
|Barmah National Park|
|Nearest town or city||Barmah|
|Area||285.21 km2 (110.1 sq mi)|
|Managing authorities||Parks Victoria|
|Official site||Barmah National Park|
Barmah National Park is a national park in Victoria, Australia. The park is located on the Murray River near the town of Barmah, approximately 220 kilometres north of Melbourne. The 28,500 hectare park consists of River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forest and wetlands. The area is subject to sporadic flooding from natural and irrigation water flows.
Barmah National Park was originally utilised by Indigenous Australians to find food, shelter and materials. Following the settlement of Europeans into the area, the Barmah National Park became an important fishing and logging area, with surrounding land cleared for agriculture and grazing. Rabbits, foxes, sheep, cattle and horses were introduced into the area. To this day, the Barmah National Park is home to small herds of horses, known as Barmah horses, a type of brumby. However plans exist to remove the horses from the park. Hardwood timber was harvested from the Barmah region from around 1870 and logging was an important industry in the region.
The park was one of four established by the State Government of Victoria in 2010 to protect remnant River Red Gum forest. The other parks created were the Gunbower National Park, Lower Goulburn National Park and the Warby-Ovens National Park.
The New South Wales government also recently declared the Millewa forest, the Millewa National Park, making the combined Barmah-Millewa National Park a 70,000 hectare cross border national park, managed by both State Governments and the Traditional Owners. In recent history, the Barmah National Park has become an extremely popular camping, fishing, bird watching and recreation destination.
The Barmah National Park is one half of the much larger Barmah-Millewa Forest in south-eastern Australia. The Barmah National Park is located on the southern (Victorian) side of the Murray River, while the Millewa National Park is located on the northern (New South Wales) side of the Murray River. This larger Barmah-Millewa Forest complex is a triangle shaped area of land, located between Echuca in Victoria, Tocumwal in New South Wales and Deniliquin also in New South Wales. The roughly 70,000 hectare Barmah-Millewa Forest is the largest River Red Gum forest in the world.
The Barmah National Park is known as a temperate semi-arid region, with low rainfall and high evaporation. Average temperature maximums for the year are around 30 degrees in January and February, with average minimum temperatures down to 4 degrees in July. Average rainfall for the year is 400mm, with the most rain falling in winter (average 40mm per month).
The Barmah National Park is a River Red Gum forest, consisting of an upper storey of red gums, no shrub layer or middle storey, and a ground storey of native grasses, sedges and rushes. The edges of the forest merge into a eucalypt-box woodland.
The park is a large flood plain and wetland area, with flooding of the Murray River occurring sporadically, both naturally and due to flow regulation of the river. The main fauna type found within the park are waterbirds. The area is a rich breeding, nesting and foraging area for over 200 bird species. It is also one of the largest breeding grounds of water birds in Victoria. Reptiles and amphibians are also found within the river red gum forest, as well as many native fish species in the river, including the Murray Cod. The main native mammals found include the Grey Kangaroo, Koala, Emu and Possum species. Introduced animals such as rabbits, foxes and horses can also be seen throughout the park.
Following European settlement of the area, land was extensively cleared to allow for farming and agriculture. Sheep and cattle grazing was a common sight around the Barmah region from the mid to late 1800s. The periodic burning previously undertaken by Indigenous Australians was also halted.
The construction of dams upstream from the Barmah National Park, from the 1920s onwards, have had a vast impact on the water flowing in the Murray River and instances of flooding. The Hume Dam became operational in 1936, the Yarrawonga Weir in 1939 and the Dartmouth Dam in 1979.
Since clearing for agriculture, and the subsequent dam construction took place, the Murray River has always undergone some form of flow regulation. The Barmah National Park and surrounding River Red Gum forests should naturally flood in spring and winter, due to the water catchment of the Murray River. However, due to flow regulation, the floods now occur in summer and autumn and are less frequent and of shorter duration than previously.
A significant decrease in breeding and occurrence of waterbirds, particular woodland bird species and species of migratory birds has been reported in the Barmah National Park. This decrease has been attributed to the changes to the flood regimes occurring in the area.
A number of marsupial species are also no longer found within the Barmah National Park, including (but not limited to) the rufous bettong, bridled nailtail wallaby, western barred bandicoot and lesser stick-nest rat. This has been attributed to the introduction of pest animals such as rabbits and foxes.
The future impact of climate change on River Red Gum forests is unknown.
The State Government of Victoria declared the Barmah Forest to be a National Park in 2010. This means that the park is now managed and legislated under the Victorian National Parks Act 1975. The park is managed as part of a collaboration between Parks Victoria and the Traditional Owners of the area, including the Yorta Yorta people.
The Barmah National Park is an internationally recognised wetland, listed under the Ramsar Convention, and a number of bird species that utilise the Barmah National Park are part of the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA) and the China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA).
Flow regulation of the Murray River to benefit the surrounding agricultural land, has been undertaken for many years. However, more recently the importance of environmental flows is becoming increasingly acknowledged.
Scientific study has shown that River Red Gums rely on specific levels and durations of floods in order to survive and regenerate, similarly waterbird species also have very specific flood-related conditions in order to successfully breed and fledge chicks.  Flow regimes are also very important for native fish species populations. Therefore the alterations to the management of River Red Gum forests and regulation of water flows within the Murray River will be a very important area of study into the future.
The issue of ecological burns also needs to be assessed very carefully for future management of the Barmah National Park.
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