Research focus on Australia’s rivers and wetlands

By March 16th, 2011

CSIRO has joined forces with other leading Australian research organistions to develop science which will 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 severe degradation. 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 today by CSIRO 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 brings together some of Australia’s most respected water scientists and ecologists, whose skills and expertise will contribute to the development of a knowledge platform which will provide water managers with an increased capacity for decision making with regards to environmental water delivery.

“Understanding how ecosystems respond to environmental watering is key to ensuring that management practices are effective”

Professor Stuart Bunn, Griffith University

“Despite recent rainfall across much of the Murray–Darling Basin, there remains a 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 at Griffith University.

“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,” Professor Bunn said. “We aim to develop models for ecosystem assessment that provide a long-term, whole-of-Basin approach to environmental watering.”

The Cluster will also provide science to underpin the development of an evaluation programme to more effectively assess environmental watering outcomes.

The Cluster brings together researchers from the 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.

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