Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management

Aquatic ecology

river

The Centre's Aquatic Ecology Group focuses on research and monitoring of aquatic fauna and flora.

We have undertaken projects on:

  • waterways and wetlands in rural and urban landscapes
  • ecological values of aquatic ecosystems
  • management of threatening processes such as salinity and climate change
  • impact of various land uses on aquatic ecosystems and functioning
  • biology and recovery of threatened species and communities
  • macroinvertebrate sampling and identification.

Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK)

TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge) was a research hub which drew together more than 80 of Australia's leading social, cultural, environmental and economic researchers. The research focused on the tropical north of Australia from Cape York to Broome. TRaCK aimed to provide the science and knowledge that governments, communities and industries needed for the sustainable use and management of Australia’s tropical rivers and estuaries. Among other government initiatives TRaCK's body of research was intended to inform the National Water Initiative and to be used as an independent and objective source of advice by those making policy, planning and management decisions about northern Australia.

During the TRaCK research program considerable effort was made to develop good working relationships with traditional owner and indigenous ranger groups to engage them in the process of natural resource management and draw on Indigenous knowledge and perspectives on the ecology of the region as well as understanding how changes to river systems can impact indigenous livelihoods.

The objectives of the program were to:

  • Increase understanding of the social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that our tropical rivers and estuaries provide
  • Develop methods and tools for assessing the implications of current use and potential developments
  • Identify opportunities to develop sustainable enterprises
  • Build the capacity and knowledge of local communities to manage Australia’s tropical rivers and estuaries.

The TRaCK program resulted in many major reports, articles and presentations that have been used by many stakeholders when making policy, planning and management decisions about northern Australia.

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Facilitating natural resource management (NRM) planning for climate change

Baseline climate change knowledge for the Southern and Southwestern Flatlands

CENRM will work with planners in regional NRM organisations to deliver relevant information on climate change, its impacts and potential adaptation responses, and provide guidance on how to use that information in NRM planning. The regional level information generated under the Impacts and Adaptation Grants Program will be a critical input to the updating of NRM plans by the regional NRM groups. The objectives of the Impacts and Adaptation Grants Program are to:

  • improve the quality and accessibility of regionally relevant information on climate change impacts and potential adaptation responses available to regional NRM organisations;
  • provide regional NRM organisations with access to expert advice on how to apply climate change information in their planning;
  • encourage local knowledge and experience to be integrated into understanding of climate change impacts, opportunities and potential adaptation responses; and
  • assist regional NRM organisations to plan for the biodiversity impacts of climate change and capitalise on the opportunities provided by the CFI and the Biodiversity Fund to improve the long term resilience of the landscape, communities and agricultural economies.

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Climate change risks to Northern Australian aquatic ecosystems

(Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment – NAWFA)

Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment (NAWFA) is an Australian Government Initiative to provide the information required to assist in the protection and sustainable development of northern Australia’s water resources, which is consistent with the National Water Initiative. This project assessed the likely impacts of possible development and climate change on Northern Australian Aquatic ecosystems. A 700 page report was presented to the National Water Commission and State Jurisdictions (WA, NT and QLD) detailing major project outcomes relevant to:

  • surface- and ground-water regimes, geomorphology and ecological processes of northern Australian Aquatic ecosystems
  • major human-related factors impacting upon aquatic ecological assets in northern Australia
  • likely effects of development and climate change on the aquatic ecosystems of northern Australia
  • ecological thresholds of concern
  • relationships between the assets and their associated cultural and social values
  • monitoring and reporting change against ecological thresholds
  • management options to minimise the effects of development and climate change
  • knowledge needs and recommendations for future assessment priorities

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Ecological values of Waterways in the South Coast Region

The south coast region of Western Australia contains approximately 107 rivers and major tributaries, ranging from larger, perennial systems, to smaller, often ephemeral streams. The ecological values of many of these systems are poorly understood. The overall objective of this project was to conduct a comparative assessment of the ecological values of selected river systems in the south coast region. To achieve this objective, an ecological snapshot of select drivers, covering the diverse range of aquatic environments found on the south coast, was undertaken.

Activities included:

  • the collation of existing ecological information on south coast rivers
  • additional surveys of fauna and flora, habitat and water quality at sites covering a range of habitats
  • the delineation and description of 'aquatic bioregions' for the south coast region using macroinvertebrate data
  • the identification of 'hotspots' for species richness and endemism using multivariate analyses
  • the assessment of ecological values of selected rivers systems using a recently developed Framework of criteria, indicators and measures
  • the exploration of the use of 'surrogate' taxa for tracking and mapping aquatic biodiversity in south coast waterways
  • mapping of the presence of biodiversity and endemism 'hotspots'

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Framework for prioritising waterways for management in Western Australia

The framework provides a consistent and transparent approach to setting priorities for waterways management. It ranks waterways in terms of their ecological, social and economic values and also according to their level of threat. Then based on these rankings, it classifies these waterways into broad categories. Appropriate management responses for each of these categories are proposed.  The framework can be used at scales ranging from whole catchments down to individual reaches of a waterway. It can be used in situations where data is limited or plentiful, and of both a qualitative or quantitative nature. It also recognises that some natural resource management regions already have processes for prioritising waterways for management, and is thus designed to incorporate and complement all previous and present waterway prioritisation and assessment initiatives undertaken by government agencies and regional bodies in Western Australia.

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Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 22 September, 2015 4:15 PM

https://www.cenrm.uwa.edu.au/1899014