TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Stuart Bunn

Stuart Bunn

Prof Stuart Bunn
Project Leader, Theme Leader
Griffith University
  • Professor Stuart Bunn is Deputy Director, Tropical Rivers & Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK), the Director, Australian Rivers Institute, and Professor in Ecology, Griffith University. 

Stuart's major research interests are in the ecology of river and wetland systems with a focus on the science to underpin river restoration and management (including development of tools to assess environmental flow needs and aquatic ecosystem health).  He has played a lead role in the development and successful implementation of several large, collaborative national research programs aimed at the improved management of Australia’s aquatic ecosystems, including the ‘National Riparian Lands Program’ (1994-2006), CRCFE ‘Dryland River Refugia’ project (2000-05), and SEQ Healthy Waterways ‘Freshwater Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program’ (2000-10).  He led the Restoration Ecology Program for the CRC for Freshwater Ecology from 1999-2003 and was Director of Research from 2003-05.  

Australian Rivers InstituteHe currently leads the ‘Food webs and biodiversity’ theme for the TRaCK CERF Hub of which he is Deputy Director of TRaCK.  He is the convenor of the NCCARF Network for Water Resources and Freshwater Biodiversity.  This research has attracted over $20m in collaborative R&D funding, including grants from ARC, L&WA, Qld Smart State, CERF, and CRCs.  Stuart has extensive experience working with international and Australian government agencies on water resource management issues.  He is a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Global Water System Project, the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel for the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Council, Deputy Chair of the Scientific Expert Panel for the Southeast Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership and, in 2008, was appointed as an Australian National Water Commissioner.  In 2007, Professor Bunn was awarded the Australian Society for Limnology Medal “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research and management of Australia’s inland waters”.

Phase 1 Projects

Outcomes This research has helped water resource managers determine the river flows necessary to maintain the plants and animals, and physical / chemical processes found in waterholes. A sound basis for determining environmental flows is a pre-requisite for ensuring north Australian rivers are not over-allocated for consumptive uses. For natural resource managers and land holders, this research has helped in the understanding of the consequences of feral animals, domestic stock and fishing on the functioning and health of waterholes, enabling more targeted management and rehabilitation methods to be developed. Indicators for monitoring the physical persistence of waterholes along tropical rivers and the important factors that keep them healthy will be determined. Management and monitoring programs for waterholes can then be developed to protect their significant environmental, economic, cultural and social values.
Outcomes This research provided a framework for explaining and predicting why river and floodplain ecosystems may change in response to pressures such as future development or global climate change. Commercial and recreational fisherman have benefited from an improved understanding of the implications of nutrient and energy movement between rivers and floodplains for fish production. Likewise, pastoralists are in a better position to understand how a change in river-floodplain connection might affect the productivity of floodplain grazing lands. And Indigenous communities gained new insight into how valued species of fish, waterbirds and turtle are affected by land use changes or weed invasion.