QVMAG dives into Wetlands


Image: St John Pound.

Wetlands around the world are under extreme threat. In the last 300 years, humans have removed over 87% of the world's wetlands and the rate of loss is increasing.  

The latest exhibition to open at the Queen Victoria Museum at Inveresk shares research behind the importance of wetlands, their vital role within our ecosystem and how we can protect precious local and global biodiversity. 

The kanamaluka/Tamar estuary stretches for about 70 kilometres from Low Head to Launceston. It drains the largest catchment in Tasmania and is fed by five river systems: South Esk, North Esk, Meander, Macquarie and Brumbys-Lake. 

It’s a very powerful estuary, one with a strong tidal influence and amazing tidal ranges; bringing in sea water and sediment from the ocean, the saltwater precipitates fine clays and silts from the water, forming the mudflats of the wetlands. The wetlands and their mudflats are habitat to many species, including migratory shore birds. 

City of Launceston Mayor Matthew Garwood said the exhibition would explore the important role of the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary in Tasmania.  

"This brilliant exhibition is a great way to understand the importance of the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary and the role it plays within our environment,” Cr Garwood said. 

“Expect to feel immersed in the wetlands while exploring this exhibition; it’s a fantastic interactive, educational experience for visitors of all ages.  

"With our community's active and continued conversation around the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary, I encourage everyone to make the most of this exhibition while it's on display at QVMAG and to take advantage of not only the fun and visual displays, but also the education and information." 

Creative Arts and Cultural Services General Manager Shane Fitzgerald said the exhibition was an opportunity for visitors to learn about and understand the complexities of the estuary.  

"This exhibition is focused on sharing the many stories of the kanamaluka; whether this be its cultural history or the thriving ecosystem living within," Fitzgerald said.  

"The site of Launceston and the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary have been a place of wetlands for many thousands of years. Those wetlands nurtured and were respected by the Aboriginal people who utilised the wetlands for food, materials for shelters, canoes and tools, and for cultural gatherings. The kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary and wetlands are still a highly valued cultural resource for Aboriginal Tasmanians. 

"Although transforming areas of the wetlands was necessary to establish a society of agriculture, industry and contemporary urban living, everyone should be aware of the values of the remaining wetlands and this exhibition has been designed to bring this message to the forefront." 

QVMAG exhibition curator Gary Morgan said the exhibition offered a fascinating insight into the biodiversity of out wetlands. 

"The key message behind this exhibition is that everyone can be involved in protecting wetlands," Morgan said.  

"Wetlands act like nature's kidneys, filtering sediments, nutrients and pollutants from the water. They help protect the shoreline from floods. They also take up and store CO2, offsetting human emissions and helping to fight climate change. In fact, wetlands capture, or ‘sequester’, carbon 30-50 times faster than forests. 

“Launceston has always been a place of wetlands. The city has evolved to be a dynamic regional centre, and in doing so, significant areas of wetlands have been lost and transformed.  

“The aim of Wetlands the exhibition is to enhance people’s awareness of the complexity, richness, productivity, values and beauty of wetlands. And especially, those wetlands that are here on our doorstep, along the kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary.” 

Wetlands is on display at the Queen Victoria Museum at Inveresk (2 Invermay Road, Launceston) from 16 September 2023 – 31 March 2024 with free entry.  

Issued 15 September 2023.