Food webs describe ‘who eats who’ in ecosystems. In tropical aquatic systems, the sources of organic matter that drive the food webs are largely unknown.
Researchers in this theme have:
identified sources of organic matter;
developed models that predict the effects of land use change on food webs and aquatic biodiversity; and
developed tools for determining environmental flows and monitoring biodiversity and ecological condition.
Food webs provide the foundation for healthy rivers. By gaining a better understanding of what drives them, we can determine how aquatic plants and animals respond to pressures such as increasing water demands, uncontrolled stock access, fishing pressure and the effects of climate change.
As a result of this work, we now have a much better understanding of the importance of floodplains, river connectivity and refugial water holes. The research also generated exciting new information on how tropical ecosystems are structured, including the relative importance of different food sources driving aquatic food webs, patterns of regional biodiversity, hydrological bio-regionalisation and conservation priorities.
Since there is currently a limited knowledge base available on tropical rivers and development often outstrips the pace at which thorough scientific assessments can be made, TRaCK has developed an online resource for people seeking more information about the environmental water requirements of tropical rivers.
The Northern Environmental Water Tool (NEWT) provides a set of guidelines to help people managing tropical rivers gain a broader understanding of how a river may respond to changes in its flow. NEWT also allows users to interrogate all of TRaCK’s research findings relating to the environmental water requirements of tropical rivers.