Climate change threatens platypus in your river

by CHARLOTTE STERRETT, WarrandyteCAN
5th June 2023

Photo Melinda Casey

Photo Melinda Casey

HOW MANY of us have wandered down to the Yarra, Birrarung River in Warrandyte in search of the ever-elusive platypus?
We know they call this special part of the world home, but these cherished creatures are under threat.
From habitat loss and urbanisation to pollution and climate change, our platypus friends face numerous challenges.
Keep reading as we explore the dangers they confront and discover the urgent actions needed to safeguard their existence in the heart of the Yarra, Birrarung River.
Human activities such as damming upstream, excessive water extraction and alterations to the riverÕs flow disrupt the delicate balance necessary for the platypus to thrive.
These changes reduce water quality, impacting the availability of the platypusÕs favourite prey, including crustaceans, insects, and small fish.
Moreover, sediment accumulation, nutrient runoff, and invasive species further degrade their habitat, making it increasingly challenging for these captivating creatures to find suitable shelter, construct their burrows, and rear their young along the banks of the Yarra, Birrarung River.
Humans are also masters of pollution.
Industrial and agricultural activities and urbanisation introduce toxic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilisers, heavy metals, and plastics into our waterways.
Unfortunately, these pollutants contaminate the platypusÕs vital food sources, leading to long-term health problems and reproductive complications.
Chemical contaminants can accumulate in their bodies, compromising their immune systems and can result in untimely deaths.
The ingestion of plastic debris, mistaken for food, poses a severe risk, causing blockages in their digestive systems and leaving them vulnerable to starvation.
In the ever-changing landscape along the Yarra, Birrarung River, our platypus companions also face a heartbreaking loss of their precious homes.
Deforestation, land clearing, and rapid urban development encroach upon their habitats, leaving fewer places for them to forage, nest, and raise their young.
The loss of vegetation along the riverbanks exacerbates the situation, contributing to increased water temperature, bank erosion, and instability.
This combination threatens their survival, as the platypus population becomes fragmented, and their genetic diversity diminishes.
The encroachment of human activities takes a toll, leaving these remarkable creatures vulnerable to environmental changes and the outbreak of diseases within the heart of the Yarra, Birrarung River.
And on top of everything else, there is climate change.
Rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns disrupt the delicate equilibrium of their habitat.
Heatwaves and altered weather patterns make it difficult for platypuses to regulate their body temperature, leading to stress and reduced reproductive success.
Extreme weather events like droughts and floods wreak havoc on their homes, washing away nesting burrows and leaving individuals displaced.
These environmental disruptions pose immense challenges to the platypus population, straining their ability to adapt and survive amidst the changing climate along the Yarra, Birrarung.
So, despite all these threats, how can we help?
Reduce pollution by properly disposing of waste.
Participate in local clean-up events to remove litter and plastics from the river.
Follow fishing regulations, use barbless hooks, and release non-target species promptly.
Join local conservation groups such as the Friends of Warrandyte State Park, volunteer for platypus monitoring programs, and contribute to fundraising efforts of organisations that protect our waterways.
Advocate for urgent action on climate change.
Maintain healthy riverbanks by minimising disturbance and avoiding activities that contribute to erosion along the river corridor.
Spread the word about the importance of platypus conservation within the community.
By actively engaging in these actions, we can all contribute to the long-term conservation of the platypus in the Yarra, Birrarung River and ensure their survival for future generations.
Charlotte Sterrett is a member of WarrandyteCAN a local climate change action group that campaigns for positive changes to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Find WarrandyteCAN on Facebook for more information