Northern Australia Aquatic Ecological Assets Project

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Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment
Northern Australia Aquatic Ecological Assets Project
Aquatic Ecosystems in northern
Australia
Northern Australia boasts a range of
significant aquatic ecosystems and
ecosystem types, including estuaries,
rivers, lakes and wetlands. These
ecosystems not only provide clean water,
food and recreation but have important
intrinsic ecological and cultural values.
These ecosystems also support high
biodiversity, including many unique
species of aquatic plants and animals.
Project Location
The geographical area being considered by
the project stretches more than 3000 km,
from Broome in the west to Cairns in the
east. This area includes three drainage
divisions: Timor Sea, Gulf of Carpentaria,
and part of the North-East Coast (north of
Cairns).
Northern Australia Water Futures
Assessment (NAWFA)
To increase knowledge about these aquatic
ecosystems the Australian Government is
funding the Northern Australia Aquatic
Ecological Assets Project as part of the
Northern Australia Water Futures
Assessment (NAWFA).
The objective of the NAWFA is to
provide an enduring knowledge base to
inform the protection and development
of northern Australia’s water resources,
so that any development proceeds in an
ecologically, culturally and
economically sustainable manner. This
project, one of a number under the
NAWFA, will identify key aquatic
ecological assets in northern Australia.
Further information on the NAWFA can
be found at:
www.environment.gov.au/nawfa
The Northern Australia Aquatic
Ecological Assets Project is being
undertaken by the Tropical Rivers and
Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK)
Commonwealth Environmental Research
Facility in collaboration with the
Department of Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and
Communities (DSEWPaC) and the
National Water Commission (NWC).
Mitchell-Lawley Rivers Region, Cathy Zwick
Project Outline
The project consists of the following three
phases:
Contributions to the Northern Australia
Land and Water Science Review 2009
The project contributed to the Northern
Australia Land and Water Science Review
2009 by determining the impact of
development alternatives on northern
Australia aquatic ecosystems and aquatic
biodiversity. The full review is available
at:
http://www.nalwt.gov.au/science_review.a
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Broad Scale Assessment
The project recently conducted a broad
scale assessment of aquatic ecological
assets across northern Australia. The
assessment mapped aquatic ecosystems
(assets) across the study region and
undertook a trial of the national draft High
Conservation Value Aquatic Ecosystems
(HCVAE) Framework being developed by
the Australian, state and territory
governments. The broad scale assessment
interim report is available from the
NAWFA Ecological Program website:
www.environment.gov.au/nawfa
Lessons learnt from the trial, along with
feedback and stakeholder consultation,
will contribute to the development of the
national HCVAE Framework.
Fine Scale Assessment
Fine scale assessments will be conducted,
in conjunction with the northern
jurisdictions, for specific catchments
identified by each jurisdiction. The
nominated fine scale study areas are the
Mitchell and upper Fitzroy River
catchments in Western Australia, the Daly
River catchment in the Northern Territory,
and the Flinders, Gilbert and Norman
River catchments in Queensland. In the
second half of 2010, expert panel
workshops will be held for each of the fine
scale locations. These workshops will
bring together experts to identify the key
ecological thresholds and identify and map
high conservation value aquatic
ecosystems at the local scale.
Next Steps
The next phase of the NAWFA Ecological
Program will assess the likely impacts of
development and climate change on the
assets identified through this project and
will consider management options to
minimise the impacts.
What is the HCVAE Framework?
The National Water Initiative (NWI), an
agreement between the Australian
Government and all the states and
territories, is the blueprint for improving
water management across the country. The
NWI states that there is a ‘national
imperative to ensure the health of river and
groundwater systems’, and that the states
and territories need to ‘identify and
acknowledge surface and groundwater
systems of high conservation value and
manage these systems to protect and
enhance those values’. The Aquatic
Ecosystem Task Group representing the
Australian, state and territory governments
is developing a common framework to
identify and classify HCVAE. This project
is trialling the draft HCVAE Framework
across northern Australia.
The Team
The project is led by Dr Mark Kennard
who is working with a team of researchers
from Griffith University, Charles Darwin
University, the Australian National
University, the Australian Government’s
Environmental Research Institute of the
Supervising Scientist (ERISS) and CSIRO.
Contacts
For more information on this project
contact:
Cameron Colebatch
Northern Australia Water Futures
Assessment
Department of Sustainability, Environment,
Water, Population and Communities
[email protected]
Phone: 02 6275 9021
w: www.environment.gov.au
Mark Kennard
Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge
(TRaCK), Australian Rivers Institute,
Griffith University
[email protected]
Phone: 07 3735 7401
W: www.track.gov.au
NAWFA is a multidisciplinary program being delivered jointly by the Department of Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) and the National Water
Commission (NWC), in close collaboration with relevant state and territory government agencies.
Through the Raising National Water Standards program under Water for the Future, the
Australian Government will allocate up to $13 million for projects under the assessment from 200809 to 2011-12.
Published by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities,
September 2010.
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