ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Ecological Characterisation and Scenario Setting for Lake Cowal (2012- 2015)

Strategic Research Area

Sustainable Water


Lake Cowal Foundation, ($90,000)

Investigators/ Researchers

Xiaoying Liu (PhD student). Supervisors Prof Max Finlayson (Principal), Dr Darren Baldwin (MDRFC) and Dr Daryl Nielsen (MDFRC)


Lake Cowal with the waste from the nearby mine in the backgroundThe Australian landscape has wetlands that range from permanently to temporarily wet. The different types of wetlands support a range of diverse species, biotic communities, habitats, and ecosystems. Lake Cowal is the largest ephemeral lake in inland New South Wales, Australia. It is experiencing unprecedented threats to its ecological character due to deforestation for cropping, grazing, and mining. Recently it has been subjected to an extended drought as a consequence of naturally high climate variability.

Pic: Lake Cowal with the waste from the nearby mine in the background

This project is examining the chemical composition of lake sediment and evaluating the drivers of changes in the concentrations of phosphorus. It will also analyse the extent of change to the hydrological regime and water quality and characterise the response of selected components of the vegetation to phosphorus.

Mixed methods will be used for the study including remote sensing, ground survey, laboratory experiment and secondary data. Statistical analyses will be used to analyze the data.


A description of the key features of the ecological character of Lake Cowal will provide a context for developing plausible futures in response to selected land/water management scenarios and variable climate regimes. 

(Thesis Submitted March 2016 Titled:Applying a transdisciplinary approach to improve the understanding of current and future states of inland ephemeral wetlands: an Australian case study)

Xiaoying Liu
Charles Sturt University – Albury

March 2016