Environmental Water Knowledge and Research

Contacts Project Director – Ben Gawne
Project Leader - Jessica Davidson
Funding Body Australian Government Department of the Environment
DurationPhase 1 – scoping and planning (June 2014 to March 2015)
Phase 2 – implementation (2014–15 to 2018–19)

Summary

Using a collaborative approach, the Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (MDB EWKR) Project will improve the best science information available to support the evolving needs of environmental water managers within the framework of adaptive water management use in the Murray-Darling
Basin. The research will support the Basin Plan environmental and adaptive management objectives and reporting needs.

The major body of research will focus on:

  • Improved identification, assessment and understanding of the links between ecological responses to watering regimes (e.g. natural and/or managed events) and incremental changes in ecological condition
  • Medium- and long-term changes in ecological condition, including the effects of threats (hydrological, aquatic and terrestrial) which may reduce or prevent the ecological improvement expected
  • The Queensland floodplain vegetation watering requirements.

The research will support the collaborative role of the Australian Government in environmental watering in the Basin, in particular:

  • The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) role in implementing the Basin Plan
  • The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office’s (CEWO) role in managing Commonwealth environmental water
  • The Basin States’ role in managing environmental water and aquatic assets.

The research will also promote collaboration among research institutions which will be important in generating new knowledge about the complex responses of aquatic ecosystems to changes in flows across a range of spatial and temporal scales.

Objectives

The objectives of this research are to improve understanding of:

  1. How environmental flow management influences ecosystem function and thereby sustains biodiversity.
  2. How the major drivers of system condition (e.g. flow, land use, invasive species etc) interact to affect biodiversity, ecosystem function, resilience and water quality
  3. How threats (hydrological, aquatic and terrestrial) may reduce or prevent the ecological improvement expected through the application of environmental water
  4. How management or delivery of environmental flow influences environmental outcomes achieved over time
    • What are the links between ecosystem responses to watering regimes (e.g. natural and/or managed events) and incremental changes in ecological condition?
  5. How complementary water management and natural resource management enhance the outcomes of environmental water management
    • What are the links between ecosystem responses to management interventions (water management and natural resource management) and incremental changes in ecological condition?

Outcomes

MDB EWKR will facilitate the generation, synthesis and communication of the knowledge required to inform the adaptive management of environmental water allocations to protect and restore healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The research outcomes are expected to make a significant contribution to the ability to assess and understand incremental changes in ecological condition in the medium- to long-term within the context of multiple management interventions, stressors and pressures and will support the following outcomes:

  • Improved capacity to predict outcomes of environmental flow allocations and their management over 1-5 years
  • Developing predictive tools and conceptual models to inform environmental watering regimes
  • Improved water management and complementary natural resource management
  • Building capacity to set realistic objectives and targets for water management and complimentary natural resource management as the climate changes
  • Improved environmental water effectiveness through the application of science to the development and operation of environmental works and measures
  • Improved monitoring, evaluation and reporting on progress toward the Basin Plan environmental objectives and targets
  • Building capacity to report against Basin Plan environmental objectives and targets.

Research sites

The four research sites selected for MDB EWKR are:

  • The Lower Balonne floodplain, including Narran Lakes
  • The Macquarie Marshes
  • The Upper Murray - centred around Barmah-Millewa Forest and potentially including adjacent areas
  • The Lower Murray - centred around the Chowilla-Lindsay-Wallpolla Floodplain and potentially including adjacent area