Puttapa Creek, Puttapa Springs
2012 Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Report
- Permanent creek with still to slow-flowing pools connected by faster-flowing riffle habitats in autumn and spring 2012
- Diverse macroinvertebrate community with several uncommon and one flow-dependent species collected
- Water was moderately fresh, clear and low in nutrients but possibly showing early signs of enrichment by the extent of algal and plant growth recorded in the creek
- Riparian vegetation consisted of native gums and shrubs over a native understorey
About the location
Puttapa Creek rises near Mount Greig in the Northern Flinders Ranges and flows in a south-westerly direction where it discharges into Sliding Rock Creek and then into Warioota Creek, which eventually discharges onto the plains on the eastern side of Lake Torrens. The only land use in the 2,712 hectare catchment, upstream from the site sampled, is grazing natural vegetation. The monitoring site was located off a track from a larger track from Beltana to ‘Warraweena’, about 8 km north-east from Beltana.
The creek was given a Good rating because the site sampled showed evidence of relatively minor changes in ecosystem structure and function. There was evidence of human disturbance including nutrient enrichment and weedy riparian zones but the stream provides habitat for several rare and sensitive species of macroinvertebrates.
A diverse community of at least 30 species of macroinvertebrates was collected from the creek, 5-20 m wide and up to 70 cm deep, in autumn and spring 2012. The creek consisted of shallow and deep pools connected by shallow flowing riffles in both seasons sampled, with more extensive areas of riffles present in autumn compared to those present in spring. The community was dominated by moderate to large numbers of baetid mayflies (Cloeon) in the pools and blackflies (Simulium ornatipes) in the riffles. It also included low numbers of worms, mites (Momoniidae and Arrenurus), yabbies (Cherax), beetles (Limbodessus, Allodessus, Antiporus, Sternopriscus, Necterosoma penicillatus, Rhantes and Eretes), biting midges (Bezzia), chironomids (Larsia, Cladotanytarsus, Cricotopus, Paratanytarsus and Chironomus), waterbugs (Microvelia, Agraptocorixa, Micronecta, Enithares and Anisops stali), odonates (Xanthagrion, Austrolestes aridus, Hemianax and Hemicordulia) and caddisflies (Hellyethira simplex and Triplectides australis). The majority of species collected were aerially mobile, tolerant insect groups but the community did include mites and yabbies that require regularly wet sites for their continued survival. A number of significant species were collected including the two types of mite, which rarely co-occur in the region, two uncommonly recorded beetles (Limbodessus and Hyphydrus), and the presence of large numbers of the widely distributed but sensitive mayfly (Cloeon). The blackflies were the only flow-dependent macroinvertebrates collected, despite the presence of permanently flowing water at the site which should have favoured several other species that use similar habitats in the region. No fish or frogs were seen at the site in 2012.
The water was moderately fresh (salinity ranged from 1,905-2,293 mg/L), well oxygenated (97-148% saturation), clear and with low to moderate concentrations of nutrients such as phosphorus (0.01-0.02 mg/L) and nitrogen (0.29-0.52 mg/L).
The sediments were dominated by detritus in the pools and by bedrock and filamentous algae in the riffles, although a wide range of coarse and fine sediment types were also present at the site. Samples taken from below the surface were grey sands that were well-aerated in autumn but the sediments became sulphidic in spring, indicating that they were anaerobic or lacking in oxygen. Over 10 m of bank showed evidence of erosion caused by sheep accessing the site and sheep faeces were recorded from the channel and banks during both surveys in 2012.
Only a moderate amount of phytoplankton was recorded in spring (chlorophyll a 4.2 Âµg/L) and over 10% of the site was covered by filamentous algae (Spirogyra and Cladophora) during the year. A similar area was covered by aquatic plants, including native sedges (Cyperus), cumbungi (Typha), club-rush (Schoenoplectus) and a few rushes (Juncus). The riparian vegetation was dominated by River Red Gums, acacias and eremophilas over sedges and rushes on the moderately well-vegetated banks (50-79% vegetative cover). The surrounding vegetation at the site comprised sheep grazing country dominated by saltbush and bluebush with only a few scattered acacias in the local landscape.
Special environmental values
Puttapa Springs is a permanent aquatic refuge that supports a range of plants and macroinvertebrates, including a sensitive species, several uncommonly collected mites and beetles from the region and at least one flow-dependent species.
Pressures and management responses
|Livestock have direct access at the site and upstream in the catchment exerting excessive grazing pressure on vegetation, causing sediment erosion and adding excessive nutrients to the watercourse.||The SA Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board recognizes that both direct and diffuse impacts on aquatic ecosystem condition can occur through direct stock access and excessive grazing pressure from stock and feral herbivores. Technical advice and incentives are offered to land managers in the region, as funding permits, to address these impacts through appropriate activities suitable for the context. In addition, projects are underway across the region to identify, prioritise and address impacts at key aquatic sites.|