Modernizing irrigated agriculture to protect and restore aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem services in SE Asia

Billions of dollars have been invested into irrigation programs in Southeast Asia. Recent growing awareness of the benefits of multi-functional ecosystems, has led to an opportunity to apply considerable Australian expertise and technology to aquatic ecosystem management in the region.

The challenge

Unfettered development of water resources can have negative impacts on aquatic biodiversity and riparian communities. It is important there is broad acceptance that development must be sustainable, taking full account of national priorities as well as the varying needs of direct beneficiaries (e.g. power companies and farmers) and nearby communities (e.g. fishers and other traditional users of the multiple services provided by rivers).

Integrated planning of land and water management is an essential first step in sustainable development of irrigated agriculture. Well formulated plans ensure availability and productive use of water, while simultaneously protecting the environment and communities from possible negative impacts associated with irrigation development. Planning needs to be catchment-specific, to account for local geography, environment, biodiversity, and community expectations, and broader regional and national government imperatives.

Project name:
Modernizing irrigated agriculture to protect and restore aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems services in SE Asia (2019-2023)

Funding  Australian Water Partnership (DFAT funded) $484K

Our response

This project has developed the tools, guidelines and in-country capacities required to systematically incorporate ecosystem service and biodiversity considerations into irrigation rehabilitation, extension, and modernization programs.

The goal

  • The project has supported the coming together of two departments who before the project would not have dealt with each other except at a very high ministerial level where no impact on-ground occurs
  • The involvement and increasing awareness with irrigation departments that irrigation infrastructure negatively impacts inland capture fisheries and biodiversity, and that consideration of this in refurbishment and new infrastructure is needed
  • Collaboration has increased on biodiversity and food security issues between Indonesian (fisheries-irrigation departments) and international partners (FAO, CSU, SEAFDEC) involving the importance of freshwater fish in reaching food and nutrition security targets set within national (agricultural food security plans) and international obligations (SDGs, specifically SDG 1,2,3).

Our team

Principal scientist

portrait of Professor Lee Baumgartner
Professor Lee Baumgartner
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Our research team

portrait of Dr John Conallin
Dr John Conallin
Senior Fish Ecologist
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portrait of Professor Max Finlayson
Professor Max Finlayson
Wetlands Ecologist
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Key research publications

  • Marsden, T., Baumgartner, L. J., Duffy, D., Horta, A., & Ning, N. (2023). Evaluation of a new practical low-cost method for prioritising the remediation of fish passage barriers in resource-deficient settings. Ecological Engineering, 194, 107024.

Our partners

Connect and collaborate

We are looking for researchers, students, funding and partners to help take our research to the next level.