A leading ILWS researcher has called for caution amid a recent newspaper report claiming efforts to mitigate carbon emissions in the Murray-Darling Basin could be ‘damaged’ by proposed cuts to irrigation in favour of returning water to the rivers. Professor Max Finlayson, Director of ILWS said the claims in the article, ‘Murray plan may harm carbon cuts’’ in The Age on Monday 20 December are fraught with uncertainty and need to be placed within context. “Unfortunately no supporting evidence is provided in the report from an ‘inter-departmental committee’ on how changes to the Murray-Darling Basin could damage carbon mitigation efforts,” Professor Finlayson said. “A pity, as it would be helpful to see the evidence and to place this within the context of an ongoing and informed discussion.”
Questions surrounding the social policy aspects of water are being examined in a project by Professor Manohar Pawar, ILWS researcher. The project looks at critical issues of access and fair distribution of water to disadvantaged communities and the need for sound social policies for water sustainability. At the recent ‘Water and Social Policy’ international workshop in South Korea organised by Professor Pawar, papers were presented from Australia, India, Nepal and Thailand. Some of the critical questions raised were: who owns water and who should own it? “Resolutions to these questions have significant consequences in terms of privatisation and the marketing of water,” Professor Pawar said.
Institute river ecology researcher Associate Professor Robyn Watts is advocating innovative ways of achieving environmental benefits for ecosystems in rivers that are regulated by dams. Research in the upper reaches of rivers in eastern Australia is casting new light on how water released from dams can be better managed to improve the ecological health of the river while also achieving social and economic objectives. Associate Professor Robyn Watts, who is one of Australia’s leading researchers on the relationships between river flows and ecology, says that by altering how we operate dams in Australia we can optimise agricultural objectives, ecosystem outcomes, hydropower and flood risk management.
World experts on operating dams, including Institute member A/Prof Robyn Watts, an aquatic scientist, have called for bold leadership from lending institutions, national governments and dam owners and operators to substantially increase investment in and help implement sustainable dam siting, design and operations around the world.
The experts from USA, South Africa, China, Nepal and Brazil, as well as Australia. recently gathered for a three day workshop at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to develop a statement on ‘Sustainable Dam Planning and Operations’ in reaction to:
A recommendation by the Productivity Commission that the Federal Government no longer match the research levy paid by farmers is a risky experiment based on little evidence, says a respected ILWS economist. In his submission on the Commission’s draft Report , Dr John Mullen, an adjunct Professor with ILWS, estimated that the Commission’s recommendation to the Federal Government would likely reduce its annual support for agricultural research and development (R&D) by $75 million, equivalent to the loss of the research branch of a large state department of agriculture.
A major report co-authored by ILWS Associate Director Professor Mark Morrison has found a moderate improvement to the environments of the Murray River and associated Coorong wetlands in South Australia is worth $7.5 billion to Australian households. The report, titled Economic valuation of environmental benefits in the Murray-Darling Basin was commissioned by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MBDA). Report
Professor Mark Morrison and Dr Darla Hatton MacDonald from CSIRO, found that an improvement in the quality of the Coorong from poor to good is worth $4.3 billion, and that a moderate improvement in the quality of the Murray is worth over $3.2 billion, totalling $7.5 billion.
ILWS fish ecologist, Dr Paul Humphries, is working with Associate Professor Hubert Keckeis, from the University of Vienna in Austria, to discover how native fish survive in Australian rivers. “As rivers in the Murray Darling Basin come under greater pressure due to drought, climate change and diminishing water resources, we need to learn more about how native freshwater fish such as the iconic Murray Cod survive and what we can do to help them,” Dr Humphries said. Professor Keckeis is visiting CSU to learn techniques developed in Australia for use in the rehabilitation of the giant Danube River that runs across southern Europe, including his native Austria.
Water researcher and Director of ILWS, Professor Max Finlayson, criticises the way water has been used in agricultural production and led to widespread environmental degradation globally, and offers some choices for future management of water in agriculture.
The state of ever-changing rural societies in Australia and overseas are topics for three books being launched on Monday 18 October. Leading researchers from ILWS have shown the breadth of their research expertise in editing and writing three books incorporating their work.
“The wetlands and rivers of the Murray Darling Basin are vital for maintaining the livelihoods and well-being of the people and the health of the landscapes that support these people. We are in a period of change and we need to adapt as we embrace the options and opportunities for the communities that live in the Basin and sustain its social, economic and ecological fabric,” says Director of the ILWS, Professor Max Finlayson.
New research shows that the Australian Government risks breaching international law if it does not fully protect wetlands listed under an international treaty in its forthcoming Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The research is the first in-depth study on how government policies and practices, and international law apply to the conservation of major wetlands along the Murray River. It was undertaken by ecologists Mr Jamie Pittock from The Australian National University and Professor Max Finlayson from Charles Sturt University, with lawyers Associate Professor Alex Gardner and Ms Clare McKay from the University of Western Australia.
ILWS senior business researcher Professor Kevin Parton says the release of the Guide to the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) Plan marks the “start of a process by which we can put things right in the Basin”.
“The most significant truth is that there is uncertainty everywhere we look. Uncertainty about how much water is required to restore the ecological balance. Uncertainty about how much agricultural output will be reduced as water is diverted to the environment. Uncertainty about how resilient communities will be as they face the challenge of less water. On top of these, there is uncertainty about how the vagaries of our climate will influence and magnify all the other uncertainties.”
The recent heavy rainfalls which have caused widespread flooding throughout parts of Victoria will benefit the environment enormously according to ILWS aquatic scientist Associate Professor Robyn Watts.
“The high flows in many of our river systems will provide great benefits for our river ecosystems,” said A/Professor Watts. “They will ‘spring clean’ the whole system and ‘reset’ it. These so-called ‘pulse events’ are fantastic for the ecosystem.
Some river systems have been reduced to a series of waterholes and haven’t flowed for some time, so the high flows will link those waterholes again. “This means fish and other organisms can move between areas and connect again,” she said. The event will also help bird and frog breeding in spring. “For some species it may be a bit early but it means they will be in good condition for the coming breeding season.”
Two political experts from ILWS, CSU in regional NSW have welcomed the formation of a government after the recent Federal election.
“The minority Labor government is not a surprising outcome given the conversations that the regionally based independents, The Hon. Mr Bob Oakeshott and The Hon. Mr Tony Windsor, have had over past 17 days. But The Hon. Mr Bob Katter’s decision to back the Coalition was a great surprise,” said ILWS political commentator, Dr Troy Whitford, based in Wagga Wagga. Dr Whitford applauded the bringing of rural issues at the forefront of the independents’ deal making. “If the independents are successful in delivering better services and facilities to regional areas then it may encourage other electorates to vote ‘independent’, but it will really depend on how well they perform now they are in the spotlight,” he said.
Why is it that, while most scientists are in agreement on climate change, the media says otherwise?
A team of ILWS researchers intend to answer this question through a study looking at how information on climate change is communicated. “Climate scientists are mostly in agreement about climate change whereas the portrayal in the media is one of disagreement,” said Professor Kevin Parton, an agricultural economist who specialises in the use of climate data. Professor Parton, who jointly leads the ILWS Strategic Research Area on Social Aspects of Climate Change, is one of nine researchers developing a project on ’Communicating the economic impacts of climate change’.
Fresh from the Federal election, National Party Senator Fiona Nash will address local researchers and international guests visiting Wagga Wagga to challenge current thinking about energy and its consumption. Attending a workshop in Wagga Wagga on Monday 30 August are members of a group of multi-disciplinary researchers who hail from the ILWS. “The 'big' question the researchers are asking is: What can we learn from the present and the past to help people overcome energy constraints and share our resources equitably?” conference organiser, Adjunct Professor Ian Gray from the ILWS said.
Households are tipped to benefit from research that will directly influence an energy supplier’s decisions on demand management. ILWS researcher, Ms Jodie Kleinschafer, whose PhD titled Household Decisions to Reduce Energy Consumption was funded by industry partner Country Energy, has found that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to demand management won’t work. Ms Kleinschafer found there were groups in the market that differ in terms of their preference for energy efficiency; the energy efficient behaviors they’ve carried out in the past; and their motives.
Each community in the Murray Darling Basin should have a greater say in how they react to the decreasing availability of water around them, according to a group of CSU researchers who work extensively with these communities on issues such as drought and soil salinity. In response to the recent report by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists the ILWS group proposes a flexible plan that communities themselves drive changes. The group has proposed five principles be used to help each community to decide how they adapt to declining water.
Agricultural productivity is slowing down as is agricultural research and Australian governments and agricultural industries should be concerned, according to award winning agricultural economist and ILWS adjunct professor Dr John Mullen. “Agricultural productivity and public investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) has slowed down in Australia and in some other developed countries which are a source of new technologies for less developed countries. This is a real worry when we have to contend with the growing effects of climate change as well as three billion more people to feed in the next 30 years,” says Dr Mullen.
CSU in association with three leading Chinese educational institutions has won a $85,000 Australian Leadership Award which will see four Chinese professors work with Institute member A/Prof Kishor Sharma on a research project led by Kishor that will identify the contributions of various sectors of the economy in polluting the environment and their appropriate design control measures.
Climate change will make it even more difficult to manage wetlands sustainably in the Murray-Darling Basin, according to Australian and international wetlands experts who will meet in Canberra 12-13 July for an intensive workshop hosted by ILWS. One of 21 technical wetland and water experts at the meeting ILWS’s Director Prof Max Finlayson said the workshop will look what can and needs to be done. “The Basin is already under intense pressure from past and current management practices, including water allocation and drought,” says Prof Finlayson. “Climate change will only exacerbate these issues.”
Significant rain in parts of southern NSW during late summer has provided a timely opportunity for work to begin on a study into rain-filled wetlands. Led by ILWS member Dr Andrea Wilson, the project is a collaborative alliance between researchers from ILWS and the EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and Industry & Investment NSW.
Plant and animal life has returned in abundance to creeks and wetlands, some of which haven’t filled for 10 years, giving the researchers the chance to observe the environmental response to rain after a long dry period.
ILWS researcher Dr Branka Krivokapic-Skoko in conjunction with Professor Jock Collins from the University of Technology has conducted a national survey on immigrants to regional and rural Australia. Their research has found while immigrants are satisfied with living in regional areas the most consistent complaint is the inadequate amenities, suggesting the retention of immigrants is related to the availability and quality of the public transport, infrastructure, retail sector, as well as recreational, entertainment or cultural activities.
What started as a visit to a remote Aleutian island by A/Prof Dirk Spennemann has grown to become a major exhibition highlighting the little known Aluetian campaign fought during the Second World War between US and Japanese forces. Dirk, a cultural heritage expert and accomplished photographer will showcase stunning photographs he took during visits to Kiska, a remote Aleutian island between Russia and Alaska in the Bering Strait.
The forthcoming Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the ailing river system, say more than 30 of Australia's leading freshwater scientists in a statement made today, Thursday March 11.
An iconic eucalypt tree growing in many areas burnt out in Victoria's Black Saturday fires is better at re-sprouting after fires than first thought, says senior botanist and member of ILWS Dr Geoff Burrows.
Women place a much higher value on the environmental and social values of rivers than men who value rivers more for their economic importance, according to the findings of PhD student Eloise Semour.
PhD student Keller Kopf likes to travel which is lucky for him as so does the subject of his research, the Striped Marlin. Keller has spent the past three years studying a fish popular with game fishers. His project has provided the first base-line biological information ever collected on the Striped Marlin, which is vital for effective fisheries management.
Major debate now enveloped Federal Parliament on climate change and how Australia will respond to the threat. Professor Kevin Parton, an ILWS expert on climate change policy, has developed a simplae comparison between the Governments' and the Oppositions' climate change polcies, both of which aim to reduce greenhouse gases by encouraging non-polluting technology or sequestrating, or 'storing' carbon dioxide.
In these times of climate change and concerns about ever increasing energy consumption, what does it take to encourage people to use less energy? The results of a two year project by Institute researchers who looked at ways of influencing students' energy saving behaviour show it's the introduction of simple things such as shower timers, night lights and energy use meters that can make a marked difference. According to social scientist Dr Rosemary Black....
Have you heard the one about gold fish having only a three second memory. That by the time they wim around the bowl, they've forgotten where they are and swim around again? "It's absolute rubbish," says ILWS adjunct researcher Dr Kevin Warburton who has been studying fish behaviour for many years.