Why monitor ecosystem processes?
NSW Water Sharing Plans (WSPs) have environmental objectives to maintain and improve key ecosystem functions and processes. These are the physical, chemical and biological processes that link water dependent organisms with their environment. They influence the suitability of refuge habitats, availability of nutrients and food resources.
River ecosystems are influenced by a range of factors that affect their health. Water quality characteristics such as temperature and dissolved oxygen impact the availability of refuges during drought. Changes to basal resources like nutrients, and productivity are crucial to aquatic wildlife such as fish, frogs and birds as they influence food availability, breeding, recruitment, dispersal and survival.
Protecting and maintaining river flows to support and enhance ecosystem processes is crucial for maintaining healthy and productive aquatic habitats. Our work aims to gain an improved understanding of how river flows influence ecosystem processes, and how the management of water can lead to improved environmental outcomes.
We monitor water temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, organics, food web responses (including plankton abundance) as part of the Environmental Outcomes Monitoring and Research Program. This information is then used to get the best outcomes for the environment during low flow and high flow periods.
Our projects include:
- Mapping priority river refuge pools and identifying their flow needs
- Research and monitoring river and floodplain productivity (e.g., plankton) response to different flows
- Research and monitoring of basal resources (e.g., nutrients and dissolved organic carbon) under different flow conditions
- Monitoring water temperature and dissolved oxygen to identify stratification and conditions unsuitable for aquatic organisms