We provide systems-level solutions to managing freshwater ecosystems.

The challenge

The health of rivers, wetlands and floodplains is dependent on water

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

CSIRO scientists are working to provide independent and rigorous science to inform the management of the Murray-Darling Basin.  © CSIRO, Tanya Doody

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.

A Rainbow Bee-eater seen at Calperum Station, South Australia.  © CSIRO, Tanya Doody

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

Ecosystem responses to low 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  decision making in relation to water for the environment by government water holders and natural resource and catchment managers. These groups evaluate performance and trade-offs in regard to environmental and economic objectives.

White-necked heron at Lake Merretti, South Australia.  © CSIRO, Tanya Doody

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 water for the environment
  • develop ecosystem-flow response models and quantify resilience and risk of water-dependent ecosystems from water management
  • 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:

  • freshwater ecology including birds, fish, vegetation, macroinvertebrates
  • ecosystem modelling and prediction
  • hydrodynamic modelling
  • modelling water quality
  • environmental genomics
  • remote sensing and technologies
  • advanced spatial analysis and modelling
  • socio-economics
  • surface and groundwater hydrology and hydrogeology
  • integration and optimisation
  • field data collection

Interested in helping us further this research?

We seek research collaborators with complementary skills so we can work together for stronger results.

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