'Flooded Forest and Desert Creek' by Matthew J. Colloff

In July 2009 I toured the Murray-Darling Basin and northern Queensland with a group of American college professors to see firsthand how the waterways of these regions were faring. By this time, south-eastern Australia had been in drought for nearly a decade, reducing its rivers and creeks to mere trickles. Aboard the MV Kingfisher, we explored the wetlands of the Barmah Choke, the narrowest section of the River Murray, where thirsty River Red Gums stood starkly exposed along its banks. Years without flood, as Chris Hammer observed in The River: A Journey through the Murray–Darling Basin (2011), was changing the Barmah ‘from a wetland to a woodland’. But the drought did break, eventually: twelve months after my visit the river flooded and the inundation of the region’s floodplains brought relief to the many species, human and non-human, for whom the Murray is their lifeblood.

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Published in November 2014, no. 366