The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands are a group of two principally freshwater swamps, totalling 261 hectares (640 acres), lying in the suburbs of Aspendale, Edithvale, Chelsea Heights, and Seaford in south-eastern Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Together they form the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Ramsar Site. With the nearby Eastern Treatment Plant, they form the Carrum Wetlands Important Bird Area.
The wetland group is divided into the northern Edithvale Wetland 103 hectares (250 acres), and the southern Seaford Wetland 158 hectares (390 acres), by the Patterson River and the Patterson Lakes housing development. They lie about 30 km south-east of Melbourne City Centre, close to the eastern shore of Port Phillip, between the coastal Nepean Highway to the west and the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Freeways to the east, and are largely surrounded by houses and golf courses.
Both wetlands are seasonal floodplain systems deriving most of their water as runoff from their local catchments, the areas of which are no more than 500 ha each. They are mainly freshwater wetlands underlain by peat beds that limit the entry of saline groundwater. They are essential components of the regional drainage system in receiving, retaining and naturally treating stormwater and other surface runoff, thus protecting surrounding areas from flooding as well as helping to protect the water quality of Port Phillip. Hydrological management of the wetlands is aimed at enhancing their natural values and controlling the ingress of saline groundwater.
Before European settlement of the area around Port Phillip in the mid-19th century, the historic Carrum Carrum Swamp stretched from what is now Mordialloc in the north to Frankston in the south. The 4000 ha swamp’s freshwater and brackish wetlands supported many animals and plants, including brolgas and magpie geese which are now locally extinct.
During the second half of the 19th century the swamp was progressively drained for farming. In 1879 the Patterson River, an artificial waterway, was cut through the swamp to the coast as part of the drainage program. The remaining wetland areas were retained to provide critical flood protection. They are the largest natural wetlands of their type left in the catchments of Port Phillip and Western Port.
The wetlands were listed on 29 August 2001 under the Ramsar Convention, as Ramsar site 1096, Australia’s 11th site, in recognition of their international importance, and specifically because they:
- are the last remaining examples of the Carrum Carrum Swamp, containing a variety of permanent and seasonal, freshwater and saline wetlands,
- support populations of the Australasian bittern, considered to be of state significance and threatened in Victoria, and
- support more than 1% of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway population of sharp-tailed sandpipers (or over 2000 birds) in up to one year in three.
They are also considered to be of exceptional significance as examples of cost-effective management of wetlands in an urban setting to provide conservation benefits, manage storm water, and encourage environmental education and research.
Flora and fauna
The wetlands contain 14 ecological vegetation types. Three of state significance are plains sedgey wetland, tall marsh dominated by common reeds, and brackish aquatic herbland. There are several regionally significant populations of plant species, such as southern water-ribbons, only previously known in the state from western Victoria; as well as one of state significance – the large river buttercup. A dryland vegetation association present, though degraded by invasive weeds, is river red gum dune woodland, a community that has not been recorded elsewhere in Victoria and is of high conservation significance.
At any one time, up to 7000 individual birds make the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands their home. Some 190 species have been recorded, including many migratory waders. Species listed as protected under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 are the great egret, Australasian bittern, Baillon's crake, Lewin's rail and the white-bellied sea eagle. There is also a population of eastern grey kangaroos.
The Edithvale Wetland is managed by Melbourne Water, while the Seaford Wetland is jointly managed by Melbourne Water and the City of Frankston. Public amenities include a bird hide (blind) at the Edithvale Wetland with education displays, as well as walking and bicycle tracks around both wetlands for birdwatching. The bird hide is accessible from Edithvale Road, staffed by volunteers from the Friends of Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands, and open from 1300 to 1700 on Sundays.
- "IBA: Carrum Wetlands". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- Case Study - Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands
- Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands.
- Annotated Ramsar List.
- "Bird Hide Update", Wetland Warbler, Friends of Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands (121), March 2011
- "Bird Hide Meeting", Wetland Warbler, Friends of Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands (146), May–Jun 2016
- "Case Study - Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands". Melbourne Water. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
- "Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands" (PDF). Brett Lane (Compiler). Department of Natural resources and Environment, Victoria. 20 July 2001. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
- "The Annotated Ramsar List: Australia". The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. 4 January 2000. Retrieved 20 March 2010.