Managing water ecosystems

We investigate how water ecosystems respond to different water resource management and allocation strategies, including environmental water flows.

The Challenge

Lack of water for ecosystems

Water ecosystems are often beautiful, a focus for biodiversity and cultural values as well as a source of water for food, drinking and energy.

However, many of Australia's water ecosystems, such as wetlands, rivers, floodplains and estuaries, are threatened by a lack of available water.

There are risks to aquatic ecosystems from the combined effects of water extraction, climate change as well as changes in land use, water quality, flow and pollutants. These factors increase the concern for waterways in many regions of Australia.

Better management of our water resources can have a positive impact on the health of aquatic ecosystems but understanding and predicting how ecosystems will respond to different management interventions requires a strong scientific basis, which is currently lacking.

Our Response

Restoring Australia's major water ecosystems

Our research is providing scientific understanding on the range of possible ecosystem outcomes from water allocation management strategies.

The research will provide the knowledge needed to restore Australia’s major water ecosystems, including surface water and groundwater dependent ecosystems.

Ecosystem Responses to Flow research is taking a whole-of-ecosystem approach to provide information about management of environmental assets across the Murray-Darling Basin and other basins.

Outcomes from our research are expected to be used in the development of tools to support environmental water flow decision making by government water holders and natural resource and catchment managers. These groups evaluate performance and tradeoffs in regard to environmental and economic objectives. More recently, we have also been collaborating with government organisations and water managers on a number of international projects.

Our key research objectives are:

  • develop transferrable methods for catchment assessment of ecosystem health and ecosystem values for the ongoing monitoring and reporting of health in response to environmental flows
  • develop ecosystem-flow response models and quantifying resilience and risk of water-dependent ecosystems to environmental water allocations
  • develop new environmental monitoring tools; hazard and risk assessment to support setting priorities for intervention and investments
  • environmental modelling to underpin plausible scenarios of change, including climate and water availability, water quality and changes in land use
  • whole-of-system integration including biophysical and socio-economic systems.

Our researchers have capabilities across a range of disciplines including:

  • surface and groundwater hydrology
  • ecosystems modelling
  • hydrodynamic modelling
  • freshwater ecology
  • spatial and temporal data analysis
  • remote sensing
  • socio-economic research
  • integration and optimisation
  • statistics and informatics
  • modelling water quality.

Case studies


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