Assessment of runnelling as a form of mosquito control in saltmarsh: efficacy, environmental impacts and management

Publication Name

Wetlands Ecology and Management


Runnelling is a minor and successful form of open marsh water management developed in Australia in the 1980s and integrated into mosquito control programs in the 1990s. While long-term monitoring and investigation of impacts has continued for one site, until recently there has been no assessment of operational runnelling more broadly across mosquito control agencies. This study addresses this issue. Forty-seven runnelled saltmarsh sites were assessed for runnel efficacy, function and condition. Issues impacting on runnel function, including both ecological and geomorphic processes, were noted. Data were mostly acquired from site inspections and discussions with mosquito control staff, with some records as available. Most runnels were constructed between 1990 and 2005, mainly using a dedicated runnelling machine. Almost half (49%) continued to contribute to mosquito control efficacy, either in part or fully, while half did not (51%). Efficacy was attributed to runnels being correctly configured in design, layout and construction and to relatively recent maintenance. Conversely, diminished efficacy was mostly attributed to ineffective hydrologic function, caused by vegetation blockages, erosion and/or deposition. Runnels alter tidal hydrology, affecting other ecological and geomorphic processes. These processes need to be managed to maintain runnel function and it is essential that monitoring and maintenance records are kept. Runnels can control mosquitoes for decades, provided ongoing monitoring and maintenance of the runnel system focusses on responding to early signs of impacts. Restoring degraded runnels should be undertaken using a runnel machine, however, changing environmental conditions may mean that a runnel should be ‘decommissioned’ instead.

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