In August 2014, we won a grant from the Victorian State Government’s ‘Communities for Nature’ program to address the decline in salt marsh vegetation around the western end of the large salt lake and to compensate for the area of salt marsh destroyed as part of the adjacent Webb Dock redevelopment. This is part of a much bigger project to rehabilitate and revegetate all banks and to provide a walking path around the lake to accommodate the many visitors who explore the lake when it turns pink.
Salt marsh would once have been extensive in the area that is now Westgate Park but only a small area of glasswort is thought to be remnant. Salt marsh vegetation extended from the mouth of Werribee River around the coast to Port Melbourne but has now been mostly lost to development. Its restoration around the Salt Lake in Westgate Park is a focus for the Friends. The large salt lake (the one that has turned pink during summer for the past three years) has salt concentrations 150% higher than sea water and has resulted from a deep sand quarry dug there many years ago. We think the lake may be linked underground to the Bay.
As we understand it, saltmarsh re-creation, especially in cut off salt lakes, has not been tackled very often in Australia. One of the objectives of this project is to understand how this can be done in our unusual circumstances. For this we sought advice from botanist and salt marsh expert, Geoff Carr.
We are experimenting with soils that can better withstand the erosion effects of wave action across the lake in high winds. This action has exposed the rubble originally brought into the site as fill which is both unsightly and poor for vegetation.
We are encouraged to see that growth has been good over the year, despite low rainfall
Our diverse planting list for saltmarsh includes Atriplex semibaccata – Berry Saltbush, Disphyma crassifolium – Rounded Noon-flower, Distichlis distichophylla – Gullinbarkityallan, Frankenia pauciflora – Southern Sea Heath, Gahnia filum -Chaffy Saw-sedge, Tecticornia pergranulata – Blackseed Glasswort, Juncus kraussii – Sea Rush, Malva preissiana – Australian Hollyhock, Lawrencia spicata – Salt Lawrencia, Muehlenbeckia florulenta – Tangled Lignum, Puccinellia stricta – Australian Saltmarsh Grass, Samolus repens – Creeping Brookweed, Sarcocornia quinqueflora – Beaded Glasswort, Selliera radicans – Swampweed, Suaeda australis – Austral Seablite.
Lawrencia spicata is listed as rare in Victoria and endangered within the Melbourne area but is growing and regenerating in a number of parts of the Park.