Tropical and arid systems
High Profile Publications
Marine and Freshwater Research
CSIRO researcher Dr Frederieke Kroon guest-edited the November Special Issue of Marine and Freshwater Research, on Catchment Management and Coastal Water Quality of the Great Barrier Reef. The Special Issue showcases much of CSIRO’s water quality research in the Great Barrier Reef, conducted in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management.
The Special Issue presents selected research that underpins the Tully Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP), which is now being implemented under the updated State/Federal Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. The Tully WQIP uses integrated biophysical, socio-economic and institutional research at the catchment scale, to develop scientifically validated, cost-effective and socially acceptable management actions for coastal conservation.
Whilst focusing on the Great Barrier Reef, the approaches and implications presented in the Special Issue can extend to any coastal ecosystem where human activities are altering water quality and ecological processes against a background of population growth and climate change.
Climate change is the backdrop to a paper co-authored by CSIRO researcher Dr David Hilbert, in collaboration with CSIRO colleagues Dr Chris Margules and Dr Simon Ferrier, which was recently listed by Sciencewatch in the top 20 most-cited climate change papers in the last two years. Published in Bioscience in 2007, the paper is titled 'Forecasting the effects of global warming on biodiversity'.
There is a rapidly growing demand for accurate forecasting of the effects of global warming on biodiversity, but current methods for forecasting have limitations. The paper compares the different uses of four forecasting methods, and makes eight primary suggestions for improving forecasts, including greater use of the fossil record and modern genetic studies. These eight suggestions also identify constructive synergies in resolving the various problems.
Botkin DB, Saxe H, Araújo MB, Betts R, Bradshaw RHW, Cedhagen T, Chesson P, Davis MB, Dawson TP, Etterson J, Faith DP, Ferrier S, Guisan A, Skjoldborg Hansen A, Hilbert DW, Loehle C, Margules C, New M, Sobel MJ, Stockwell DRB. 2007. Forecasting effects of global warming on biodiversity. Bioscience 57:227-236.
Find out more information about Dr Hilbert's climate change paper [external link].
Bush Food Report helps Aboriginal Students
Bush food species have been staples in Australian food production systems for thousands of years. Yet ironically, Australian agricultural researchers know more about of the biology of species sourced from overseas (e.g. the tomato Solanum lycopersicum) than those species that have been used by Aboriginal people in Australia.
In a unique collaboration, Alyawarr people from Ampilawatja (330km NNE of Alice Springs) worked with CSIRO researchers Dr Fiona Walsh and Ms Josie Douglas, and linguist David Moore, to record and compile ecological knowledge and skills associated with one of the most important food species in desert Australia, Akatyerr (pronounced uh-KAH-juh-rruh) or Solanum centrale or Desert raisin. It is now the major central Australian species in the commercial bush food industry.
The Desert Knowledge CRC (DKCRC) funded the research to benefit the development of Aboriginal economies and livelihoods in desert Australia. From an Alyawarr perspective, the research was to provide educational material important to younger generations. One output was a 53-page A3 report in Alyawarr and English that is richly illustrated with photos and diagrams. This is co-authored with Alyawarr people and extensive quotes are copyrighted to them. The report documents aspects of the species’ taxonomic over-differentiation, habitat, management through burning (or not), animal ecology, harvesting and preparation techniques, storage and contemporary trade. It relates these to a diagrammatic Aboriginal knowledge system centred on plants. While many other aspects of the species ethnoecology remain unrecorded, the report clearly shows the basis of Aboriginal custodianship of a species widespread across desert socio-linguistic regions. It includes teacher’s notes.
Quantifying aquatic resources in the Northern Territory
Northern Australia’s Indigenous communities have a large stake in water resource management, arising from their distinct cultural perspective on the environment, native title rights and long traditions of customary land and water management. It is therefore important that water management plans identify and address Indigenous interests and values in water.
As part of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) program, Dr Sue Jackson and her Darwin-based team of Dr Marcus Finn, Ms Emma Woodward and Ms Pippa Featherston are working in two catchments – the Daly in the NT and the Fitzroy in the Kimberley. The team are recording Indigenous knowledge relating to water and quantifying the economic benefit to Indigenous people from water-dependent resource use.
At the 12th International Riversymposium in Brisbane in September 2009, Dr Finn presented results from one part of the project - household surveys that quantify the harvest and consumption of aquatic resources. The surveys were done during a semi-structured interview, with participants being asked to recall a period of hunting activity over the preceding 2 weeks.
Results for the first year of data from the Daly River region indicate that Northern Long-necked Turtles surpass Barramundi and Magpie Geese as the most commonly taken bush tucker. Northern Long-necked Turtles lay their eggs under water along the edge of billabongs, which need to dry and then flood for the eggs to hatch. Changes to water use and river flows could reduce their populations. Dr Finn said turtles were not on the radar of most other interest groups except conservation groups, “but if billabongs don’t fill any more because of water diversions or other land use changes, turtles won’t be able to breed and this will affect the food supply of Indigenous communities.”
These household surveys, which are being conducted quarterly by CSIRO for 2 years, will provide information on the seasonal and inter-annual variability of resource use. This type of research allows CSIRO to contribute a wider understanding of water management to the rest of the TRaCK program, land and water managers and the wider public.