Debris floating in the floodwater near Fairfield, January 2011. Image by Glenn Walker.

Debris floating in the floodwater near Fairfield, January 2011. Image by Glenn Walker.

Frequently asked questions about the impact of floods upon ecosystems

This page provides information about the impacts of the flooding upon aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

  • 31 January 2011 | Updated 12 March 2014

What will be the effects on floodplains and bushland?

Large areas of bushland and floodplains have been inundated by floodwaters.

Native trees on floodplains are generally adapted to the natural cycle of floods and droughts that take place in Australia and they have lifecycles to match.

Floods can trigger dormant seeds to sprout. Similarly, insects and reptiles may come out of resting.

Unfortunately floods can assist weed species during an extensive inundation, by carrying weeds on currents downstream into areas where they were not previously established. Invasive animals may benefit in this way as well.

Floods like this and worse have been happening in the Australian landscape long before human habitation.

How will plants and animals recover?

Floods like this and worse have been happening in the Australian landscape long before human habitation.

The short-term, broad ecosystem effects of floods, or droughts, have long shaped Australia’s biogeography.

Most native species have lifecycles that enable them to be adapted to survive the wet and dry. However, to enable animals and plants to recolonise landscapes they need refuges to retreat to during disturbances, for example, patches of vegetation and variations in topographies in the landscapes like hills.

We may expect to see shifts towards species and ecosystem types that can cope with higher rainfall and water disturbances because climate models are projecting that future extreme rainfall events are likely to be more intense (resulting in more severe flooding).

Read more about Understanding the causes and impacts of flooding.