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murray darling river

Full Project Title: Conserving Biodiversity

Theme 1 : Drivers of change - understanding and integrating the economic, social, health and drivers of change in the Murray-Darling BasinTheme 2 : Environmental watering and allocation - understanding and optimizing watering requirements, biodiversity, ecosystem services and productive water uses in the Murray-Darling BasinTheme 3 : Better governance, planning and management - innovative approaches for the Murray-Darling Basin

This project was lead by Professor Arthur Georges and Dr Bernd Gruber

pelicans_mdba_8336There have been a number of calls upon the government to coordinate the development of an interim biogeographical regionalisation for inland waters to complement those already developed for terrestrial and marine systems as a basis for allocating priorities and resources at national and regional scales, and for reporting against agreed indicators.

There is a pressing need for research to increase our fundamental understanding of the factors and processes that regulate biodiversity in freshwater systems so as to be better able to predict the likely impact of human-induced change, to ameliorate the effects of human activity and to plan restoration and rehabilitation initiatives. The key questions emerging include the need to identify the ecological consequences of increasing fragmentation of river ecosystems through the construction of dams and weirs, or by creating barriers through habitat alteration arising from flow abstraction and climate change, or by specific regimes implemented as environmental flows. How can we inform appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies to maintain or restore river health and protect biodiversity through improvements in flow and habitat management?

This project will research to meet the challenges of biodiversity conservation in Australia's largest river system, the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). Biodiversity conservation, and the benefits and the services provided by biodiversity, though difficult to quantify, is acknowledged as an important dimension underpinning the health and sustainability of the natural ecosystems of the Murray-Darling Basin (Commonwealth Water Act, 2007). Yet biodiversity in the MDB has been and continues to be seriously impacted by threats that also operate globally and nationally. Specifically, the project team will address the following questions.

  1. Is there an historical signature on biodiversity in the MDB and adjacent
    drainages that remains evident in the genetic structure of widespread
  2. Does a natural bioregionalization emerge from an analysis of species
    distribution records and concordant patterns of genetic structure
    across disparate aquatic and water-dependent organisms?
  3. What are the impacts of dams and weirs (fragmentation) on dispersal

This project will research how to manage and preserve biodiversity in the MDB using a twofold approach. One part of the project uses a top-down approach to study the biodiversity in the MDB and to identify management units using bio regionalisation as a tool.

The second part of the project is studying the population processes that area caused by the water management (e.g. fragmentation via dams and weirs) using second generation sequencing data.

This work is contributing to increasing quality and capacity for research at the University of Canberra by providing opportunity to network with other research groups with complementary capacity in ways that we would not have otherwise done. This includes linkages and collaboration with the Rivers Institute at Griffith University, CSIRO, the company Diverse Array Technologies, and others. Both Postdoctoral Fellows bring with them linkages with individuals through their own established networks. The project provides opportunity for existing postgraduate students to couch their work in the broader context of the CRN and to have their work more widely known and hopefully used, than would have otherwise been the case. It also provides greater opportunity for them to make linkages increasing their employment prospects.

Picture courtesy of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Waterbirds of the Coorong - Waterbirds near the Murray mouth in South Australia. Image was taken in 2007.

MDBfutures is supported by the Australian Government's Collaborative Research Networks program.