The Murray-Darling Basin is one of the world’s largest and most productive river basins providing one third of Australia’s food supply and accounting for $19 billion of agricultural output. It harbours some of our most important natural assets, supporting a diverse array of animals, plants and ecosystems of national and international significance.
With the damaging effects of drought, unsustainable agriculture, over-exploitation, poor management and other factors, the future of the Murray-Darling Basin and all life that depends on it is at considerable risk.
Ecosystem at risk
In early 2019, if you’ve heard about the mass fish deaths and devastation caused by drought in New South Wales, you know how heartbreaking it is to see fish dying because there is not enough water in the Murray-Darling Basin. In a recent assessment of overall ecosystem health, it’s no surprise that more than 80% of the Murray-Darling Basin’s river valleys were rated as being in poor or very poor health.
If this news saddens you, you’re not alone. You know that action needs to be taken to save the Murray-Darling Basin. Every little thing you, your family and friends are doing to help nature gives us hope that, together, we can make a difference.
With help from supporters like you, we're proving that the destruction of our natural world is not inevitable. Together, we can achieve large-scale victories across Australia – victories rooted in solid science, collaboration and a strategic framework for change.
How we’re protecting the Murray-Darling Basin
The Nature Conservancy focuses on large-scale impact across Australia. Here is some of the work we're doing to help protect habitat in the lower Murray-Darling Basin:
Protecting land and restoring natural water flows
In early 2019 we made the most valuable private conservation-focused purchase in Australia’s history. We’re protecting almost the entire extent of the Great Cumbung Swamp in the lower Murray-Darling River (in NSW) from being converted into an irrigated farmland placing even further pressure on the stressed river system. This is a big step towards reviving the lower Murray-Darling Basin to its former glory.
This 34,000 hectare property is protecting 131 bird species, more than 200 plant species and 19 native fish species. In times of drought, these natural wetlands and floodplains provide desperately needed refuge for endangered species such as the Australasian Bittern and Australian Painted-snipe, as well as the iconic Murray Cod that is under serious threat. With this game-changing purchase, our critical work at the Great Cumbung has just begun. We will be managing the conservation of these wetlands and extending our efforts to help protect other areas of the Murray-Darling Basin and important habitat across Australia.
We're reversing the damage at Gayini to reinstate a more natural flooding regime to give our iconic species a fighting chance to thrive again. Gayini Nimmie-Caira neighbours the Great Cumbung. It’s an 88,000 hectare property in the lower Murray-Darling Basin, known as the "Kakadu of the South”. It's a remarkable place that's one of the few significant remaining areas of river red gums in Australia. During the wet season, the lakes and other wetlands in the area join up to become an inland sea that makes the perfect breeding ground for threatened species such as the Blue-billed Duck, Southern Bell Frog, and the Murray Cod.
Balancing water for people and nature
We established the world’s first impact investing project in Australia with the Murray-Darling Basin Balance Water Fund. The purpose of this innovative fund is to provide water security for farmers, while protecting culturally significant wetlands that support threatened species and ecosystems. The fund invests in permanent water rights in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin and allocates those rights in a smart way. When water is abundant and agricultural demand is lower, more water will be made available to local wetlands. When water is scarce and agricultural demand is higher, more water will be made available to irrigation. This approach optimises agricultural and environmental outcomes by replicating the natural wetting and drying cycles of the Basin. It’s a win-win approach, aligning the interests of people and nature.
The first wetland to receive water recorded an 800% increase in aquatic plant diversity, 135% increase in bird diversity, 250% increase in bird abundance and 46% increase in tree canopy health.
It's going to take everything we've got to keep nature healthy and whole.
Australian researchers believe we are getting dangerously close to a threshold where whole ecosystems could collapse.
There are so many natural places that need to be cared for. And like all conservation projects, it takes time and your unwavering support. Every donation over $2 is tax deductible. We urge you to make the most generous gift you can.
Where your money goes
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been protecting the environment for nearly 70 years. From our historic work in land acquisition to cutting-edge research that influences global policy, TNC is constantly adapting to take on our planet’s biggest, most important challenges. Our vision is to create a world where people and nature can thrive. With your support, we can put the best conservation science into action right now.
In the last three financial years, 76% of gifts have gone straight into conservation programs. We strive to ensure your vital donations make the largest impact for nature now and for the future of our planet.