|Title||Linking catchments to the coast – can the development of northern Australia negatively impact on the health and productivity of estuaries? Coast 2 Coast Conference, Darwin 2008|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|Authors||Burford, M, Halliday, I, Bayliss, P|
|Keywords||5: Foodwebs and biodiversity|
There is pressure to develop northern Australia by expanding urban areas and increasing agricultural production. Development requires water, therefore there are proposals and plans to divert, abstract and regulate water from Northern rivers. These rivers contain a large proportion of Australia’s freshwater leading to a popular view that much of the water discharging to the sea is wasted. However, estuaries, which are at the interface between the river and the sea, are at the receiving end of the freshwater flows. They are highly productive habitats supporting an abundance of plant and animal species, including fish and crustacean species of commercial and recreational importance. These communities have adapted to the highly variable flows and the associated suspended sediments and nutrients characteristic of tropical Australia, and are likely to be reliant on both the variability and magnitude of freshwater inputs to fuel productivity. Research on the role of catchment inputs on estuaries has been limited to date but recently researchers in the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge program have commenced studies on the links between catchment inputs and estuarine productivity. Combined with studies of river and catchment structure and function, it will provide an integrated study to assess how future development in the north is likely to impact on estuaries.