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Monitoring river health in the wet-dry tropics | TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

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

Monitoring river health in the wet-dry tropics

Monitoring river health in the wet-dry tropics

River health is in generally good condition in the wet-dry tropics compared to the more developed parts of Australia. However river health is modified by anthropogenic activities such as grazing, feral animals, fire, mining and agriculture. A survey conducted by TRaCK researchers showed that northern Australian residents expect that tropical rivers will reamin healthy, and view any degradation, even if minor on a national scale, as being significant and the possible start of long-term degradation.

Monitoring river health in northern Australia is challenging. The vast area, small population base, high seasonality of rainfall, and limited all-weather road infrastructure pose resource and logistical constraints. In the wet season most rivers are inaccessible. In the dry season many rivers cease flowing while others reduce to a series of disconnected pools or waterholes. Some rivers and streams are groundwater-fed and flow year-round.

As part of its synthesis and adoption year, TRaCK researcher Dr Simon Townsend - with affiliations to Charles Darwin University and the Northern Territory Government - led the development of a report which combines the knowledge of leading scientists on monitoring river health in the wet-dry tropics. Co-authors of the report included TRaCK researchers from Griffith University, the University of Western Australia, CSIRO and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, and scientists from the Australian Government, Queensland and Western Australian environment and water departments.

The scientists identified early detection of anthropogenic effects as the key objective for long-term monitoring. This approach is especially significant in the wet-dry tropics to provide warning of river health degradation so as to avoid the social and economic costs of restoration.

Download or view the report, or watch a short video about monitoring river health.

Monitoring river health
Monitoring river health