A research partnership led by Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute is
developing science to underpin improved management and assessment of the
health of Australia’s river and wetland ecosystems.
As a result of reduced water availability and unsustainable demands on our
environment, Australia’s rivers, lakes, wetlands and floodplains have suffered
There is growing recognition of the need to supply ‘environmental water’ to protect and conserve these important ecosystems.
The Ecological Responses to Altered Flow Regimes Cluster, launched last week
at the National Museum of Australia, aims to develop science that will optimise
the benefits of this water for aquatic ecosystems.
The research will initially focus on the Murray–Darling Basin, but it is expected that many of the findings will be applicable to other river and wetland systems.
The Cluster, which is funded under CSIRO’s $3m Cluster Fund, brings together some of Australia’s most respected water scientists and ecologists from CSIRO, Griffith University, the University of New South Wales, Monash University, Charles Sturt University, La Trobe University and the Victorian Department of
Sustainability’s Arthur Rylah Institute.
Their expertise will contribute to the development of a knowledge platform which
will provide water managers with an increased capacity for decision making concerning environmental water delivery.
“Despite recent rainfall across much of the Murray–Darling Basin we need to
ensure that we sustainably manage our water resources and protect aquatic
ecosystems into the future,” said Cluster Leader Professor Stuart Bunn, from the
Australian Rivers Institute.
“The state of knowledge about aquatic ecosystems and how they respond to flow
has not kept pace with the problems that have arisen due to management approaches and reduced water availability.”
Drawing upon the best available environmental modelling and monitoring tools,the Cluster aims to produce an inventory of the environmental assets in the Murray–Darling Basin; an assessment of the water requirements of these assets and a framework for optimising environmental flow allocation decisions.
“Understanding how ecosystems respond to environmental watering is key to
ensuring that management practices are effective. We aim to develop models for
ecosystem assessment which provide a long-term, whole-of-Basin approach to environmental watering,” said Professor Bunn.
He added that the Cluster will help to address the fragmented research effort in
this area, and also provide science to underpin the development of an evaluation
program to more effectively assess environmental watering outcomes.