Malaise/flight intercept trap in a river red gum forest at Eckerts Creek, South Australian Riverland.

Insects have frequently been used as indicators of biodiversity and habitat quality.

ECOWATCH: partnering with community to assess habitat quality

ECOWATCH was a community-based project for assessing habitat quality, which was first established in the Riverland region of South Australia.

  • 12 March 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

ECOWATCH involved a partnership between CSIRO Entomology, the Bookmark Biosphere and five local Riverland schools:

  • Loxton High School
  • Glossop High School
  • Barmera Primary School
  • Renmark Primary School
  • Renmark High School.

Involving the community

Habitat restoration is one of the most rapidly growing fields within conservation biology and projects often have a large community involvement. One of the major problems with these projects is how to monitor the success of restoration efforts.

The ECOWATCH project grew from a desire of local schools to be actively involved in the restoration of degraded Murray River floodplain habitats. These habitats have been heavily grazed by sheep and rabbits over the last century and have suffered the effects of salination due to manipulation and overuse of irrigation waters.

The schools' motivation was not only to serve the community by assisting in environmental programmes, but also for the work to form an integral part of the curriculum for science, environmental studies and outdoor education courses.

CSIRO Entomology worked closely with community groups and local schools to monitor habitat restoration as part of the ECOWATCH project.

The major concern was how to monitor progress of their restoration efforts including:

  • weed control
  • feral animal control
  • replanting of native vegetation.

Outcomes and achievements

The overall aim of ECOWATCH was to develop a set of procedures based on simple estimates of invertebrate diversity and abundance that could be used by schools and community groups for assessing habitat quality and monitoring the success of on-ground restoration efforts.

The Bookmark Biosphere Reserve, in addition to providing on-ground logistical support, acted as a conduit between the schools and the scientific community.

CSIRO Entomology became involved through their long-standing association with Bookmark Biosphere and it was felt that invertebrates could play a role in addressing the schools' concerns. Invertebrates, particularly insects, have frequently been used as indicators of biodiversity and habitat quality and disturbance.

This project was seen as a pilot study and future phases could include adapting the system for use in other parts of Australia, including the use of aquatic invertebrates for monitoring water quality.

Supporters

This project was generously supported by:

  • Ian Potter Foundation
  • Sidney Myer Foundation
  • Bookmark Biosphere
  • National Heritage Trust.

Learn more about research by CSIRO Entomology.