ILWS Strategic Research Area
A/Prof Robyn Watts (leader), Dr Nicole McCasker, Dr Keller Kopf, Dr Julia Howitt, Dr Suzanne McDonnald, and James Abell (all ILWS); Dr Lee Baumgartner, Ian Wooden, Chris Smith and Rohan Rehwinkel (all NSW DPI); Mr Anthony Conallin, Josh Campbell and Dr Patricia Bowen (all Murray CMA); A/Prof Mike Grace (Monash University); and Sasha Healey and Emma Wilson (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage)
The Edward-Wakool system is a system of multiple rivers and creeks and wetlands intersected by a network of irrigation channels. Listed as an endangered system because of its high biodiversity including threatened and endangered fishes, frogs, mammals, and riparian plants, it has been targeted for longer-term monitoring by the Australian Government.
In the Edward-Wakool system, environmental water is delivered as pulsed flows that remain within the river channels (i.e not overbank flows), so the focus of the assessment is on fish, in-stream ecosystem health and food webs.
Picture Collingen Creek
ILWS researchers have undertaken research projects in the Edward-Wakool system since 2010, and since 2011 have received funding from SEWPAC to monitor the ecosystem responses to the delivery of Commonwealth environmental water in this system. In 2012/13 monitoring of responses to environmental watering was undertaken as a single integrated, multi-disciplinary project, led by A/Prof Robyn Watts, involving a number of agencies with complimentary expertise as is the case for this project (2013/14.)
The project team is undertaking a range of assessments including modelling of riverbank inundation under different flow scenarios, water chemistry analysis including carbon characterisation, full stream metabolism, phytoplankton, aquatic and river bank vegetation, crustaceans, frogs, fish spawning and recruitment, fish movement, and large-scale fish population assessment.
The team is developing a large database of ecosystem responses under different flow conditions which will enable them to model interactions among different indicators. This will improve predictions of responses to environmental watering taking into account other factors such as water temperature, the source of environmental water and antecedent conditions.
Members of the project team are participating in fortnightly teleconferences with various water management agencies to assist with the adaptive management of environmental water in these systems. The knowledge gained from this project will assist other environmental watering programs in Australia and across the world.
A/Prof Robyn Watts
Charles Sturt University – Albury