This project investigates whether shorebirds are utilising man-made salt lakes or salt pans, created during the process of mining salt in the WA’s North, as feeding and roosting grounds. The emphasis is on migratory birds and whether these artificially formed wetlands are creating ‘sanctuaries’ of ‘buffer habitats’ against lost or degraded natural intertidal mudflats which are increasingly under threat from coastal development and climate change. Centre for Ecosystem Management researchers are investigating salt works near the Pilbara towns of Karratha and Port Hedland and a natural salt lake, Lake McLeod, north of Carnarvon. The wetlands are all part of working mine sites operated by Rio Tinto subsidiary Dampier Salt.
Preliminary results indicate that small-sized shorebirds like the Red-necked Stint or the Curlew Sandpiper are using the salt works for feeding likely due to the extended availability and abundance of food sources. However the salt works are hypersaline making them less suitable feeding grounds for most species. Further research will hopefully provide the information required for managers to make predictions concerning the environmental conditions that provide feeding and sheltering habitats for shorebirds.
Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt Ltd
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