TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

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

Aquatic ecosystems in northern Australia

TitleAquatic ecosystems in northern Australia
Publication TypeCorporate Publication
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsPusey, BJ, Kennard, MJ
Keywords5: Foodwebs and biodiversity, aquatic ecosystems, biodiversity, flow regime, human development, knowledge gaps, threats

1. Northern Australia hosts a range of aquatic ecosystem types (estuaries, rivers, lakes, wetlands) supporting high biodiversity and many endemic species of aquatic plants and animals. Most aquatic ecosystems are currently in very good ecological condition but are, in some cases, threatened by invasive weeds and alien terrestrial pests such as pigs and buffalo.
2. The ecology and condition of northern aquatic ecosystems is intimately dependent on the nature of the flow regime.
3. Current water infrastructure, water use and agricultural land use has had demonstrative negative effects on aquatic ecosystems but these have been limited in spatial scale, with the exception of cattle grazing. Northern Australian aquatic ecosystems are numerically underrepresented in Commonwealth conservation and management inventories (i.e. RAMSAR, Directory of Important Wetlands).
4. A diversity of flow regime types occurs across northern Australia which when coupled with spatial diversity in fluvial landscape structure and diversity of aquatic ecosystem types result in a diversity of ways in which future water development may impact on aquatic systems.
5. Critical knowledge gaps exist concerning the key environmental drivers of aquatic ecosystems. Improved knowledge will allow scientists and managers to predict with greater certainty the responses of aquatic ecosystem responses to future environmental changes associated with water use, land use and climate change.