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Plants and animals

The wetlands and floodplains of the Murray–Darling Basin are home to a wide range of native plants and animals, some of which are only found in particular stretches of the river. The Basin also supports a huge variety of birdlife. Some birds are native, while others are migratory and come to the Basin as part of their breeding cycle.

Among the native wildlife species of the Basin are 98 kinds of bird, 31 frog species, 46 varieties of snake, 100 types of lizard, three species of freshwater turtle and over 50 species of fish.

Changes to the river system since European settlement have resulted in many species living in the Basin becoming endangered. Despite conservation efforts:

  • at least 20 mammal species which lived in the Basin have become extinct since European settlement, and 16 are endangered
  • 35 birds species are endangered
  • five species of snake and one species of lizard are endangered.

National parks and other reserves (which make up about 7% of the Basin’s total area) protect many native plants and animals.

How the Basin Plan helps plants and animals

The aim of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan is to improve the health of the Basin’s river systems and floodplains. One of the ways it does this is by reserving water for the environment and releasing it in a planned way. This helps maintain water quality and ensures the rivers, wetlands, floodplains, and plant and animal habitats get enough water to stay healthy.

The Plan limits how much water can be taken from the Basin for irrigation, drinking water, industry or other human needs. Water used to achieve environmental outcomes, including benefiting ecosystems, biodiversity, water quality and water resource health, is known as water for the environment.

Having enough water means a healthy river system where:

  • migratory birds from as far away as the Arctic have a refuge and breeding place
  • fish breed and move through the rivers
  • birds cross the landscape pollinating plants and eating insects
  • aquatic plants filter water and keep it clean
  • vegetation helps to control erosion
  • locals and tourists can enjoy bird watching, fishing, bush walking, camping, swimming and boating.

Download our poster of flora and fauna in the Murray–Darling Basin

Updated: 24 Sep 2020