Flow-MER Annual Forum
20-21 September 2022
Photo: Researchers wading through lush spike-rush, milfoil and Nardoo, Lake Noonamah, 2020. Credit, Alica Tschierschke.
On 20-21 September 2022, the Flow-MER program held its Annual Forum to showcase work across the seven Selected Areas of the Murray Darling Basin and share insights from the significant task of evaluating this information at the Murray-Darling Basin scale.
Participants heard how seven consecutive years of investment in monitoring and evaluation has provided a rich understanding of aquatic ecosystems and how they’ve responded to water for the environment, while continuing to remind us how much we still have to learn.
Whether you want to hear the latest at the Basin scale, take a journey along the river, or hear how this information is helping environmental water managers, the presentations are at your fingertips below.
Scientific evaluation and research at the Basin scale has improved our understanding of large-scale aquatic ecosystem responses to water for the environment, while also reminding us of the complexity of the Murray-Darling Basin. With both the Water Act and Basin Plan reviews coming up, there has never been a more important time for robust science to demonstrate the effectiveness of water for the environment and the Flow-MER program is delivering this.
Recent wetter conditions are enabling environmental water holders to build on high natural flows. The importance of water for the environment during the drought years is proving critical for maintaining end of system flows for salt export, habitat in the Coorong estuary, while benefitting riverine fish and fringing vegetation along the way.
Attention in this part of the world has shifted to the Werai Forest which forms part of the NSW Central Murray Forests Ramsar site, but has been considered the ‘Forgotten Forest’. Genuine engagement with First Nations and community members are a strong focus, as scientist work with managers to bring water back to these forest environments and measure the benefits along the way.
The Goulburn River can be heavily impacted by operational flows called Inter-Valley Transfers (IVT) – or water which is being transferred to the Murray to meet demands downstream. For the first time since this monitoring program began, IVT has barely been used in the water year, allowing scientists to obtain a good reference year for ecologically desirable flows. Fish and vegetation have responded very well as a result.
Many parts of the Murray-Darling Basin have seen large-scale waterbird breeding and the lower-Murrumbidgee wetlands have been a highlight. Monitoring waterbird nesting, breeding and survival is becoming increasingly sophisticated. See how drone technology and imagery is being used to more accurately monitor waterbird responses and how this is helping understand survival rates to inform water management.
Sometimes, choosing not to deliver water for the environment can be a good strategy too. By using environmental water in storage to underwrite the risk to the resource, water managers were able to maintain flows to support large scale waterbird breeding in the lower Lachlan catchment. Monitoring also showed that sites watered with environmental water during the dry years, saw vegetation bounce back better during high flows than sites which did not receive water.
High flows and targeted use of water for the environment have supported positive outcomes for waterbirds and vegetation in the Gwydir river system, with ~45,000 nests detected across 14 colonially nesting bird species, as well as high species diversity of plants and evidence of continued tree recruitment. Fish responses have been mixed and there are concerns for Murray cod and golden perch populations in the catchment and the broader Northern Basin.
2021-22 was a year of two halves for the Warrego River and Western Floodplain, with low flows early on giving way to a wetter conditions. Flood-dependent vegetation communities responded well, as did lignum, coolabah and blackox which flowered and set-seed. For fish, some generalist species responded well while other species such as silver perch, freshwater catfish and Murray cod were found in low numbers.
The Flow-MER program is fundamental to the planning, delivery and adaptive management of Commonwealth environmental water. Here are examples of how the Flow-MER program supports the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office in their role to protect and restore the water dependent ecosystems of the Murray Darling Basin, and in sharing these learnings with Basin communities.
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Artwork credit: Shutterstock.
The Flow-MER program team acknowledge and respect the Traditional Owners as the First Peoples of the lands and waters of the Murray Darling Basin.
We recognise their unique ability to care for Country and their deep spiritual connection to it. We honour Elders past and present whose knowledge and wisdom has ensured the continuation of culture and traditional practices.
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