Environmental flow studies and management
Environmental flow studies and management in Victorian rivers use existing values to determine objectives and flow recommendations. These methods do not take into consideration climate change and future water availability (or water quality) as a way to determine riverine values.
Under climate change modelling, annual run off throughout Victoria could change by +/-5 to 40% by 2065, subsequently affecting stream flow (CSIRO, 2016). Climate change predictions also suggest an increase in extreme weather, along with a potential change in seasonality of rainfall. Increases in extreme weather events (especially drought) are likely to have profound effects on aquatic ecosystems, and increase the risk of extinction for small, isolated populations, or species already living on the edge of their geographic bounds.
These predicted changes will inevitably change riverine ecological values, and the ability of environmental water to maintain the existing values. Knowledge of how these impacts will change riverine ecosystems currently targeted with environmental water is complex and largely unknown. This project will look at the vulnerability of waterways to climate change induced drought and determine if environmental water can assist in mitigating drought impacts.
A policy framework or decision management tool would then be developed to determine when addition of environmental water is beneficial to maintain long term values under changing conditions, or assist with decision making to commence managing ecosystems towards a novel state. Environmental flow management in Victoria requires a framework, or method to help determine ecological values and objectives in an uncertain future and give river managers guidance on how to make sound ecological trade offs in changing times.
La Trobe University
August 2019 to November 2022