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Project 3.7.4 - Wetlands and floodplain:  Connectivity and hydro-ecological function

Project Leader and Host Organisation

Dr Jim Wallace, CSIRO Land and Water

Project Description and Objectives

For detailed descriptions of the outputs for this project for Year 4 (2009/2010) of the MTSRF Research Programme, see the Annual Research Plan.

Floodplains and wetlands are important physical and biological links in the aquatic continuum, providing unique and essential habitat and connectivity for specialist and wide-ranging fauna. Yet very little is known about the hydrological dynamics of these systems, and about the dynamics of the physical and biological connectivity through them. These systems provide access to and vital habitat for iconic species such as Barramundi, but they are typically poorly managed, highly impacted and, in the case of freshwater wetlands, severely depleted (~75% of such wetlands in Great Barrier Reef catchments having been lost to agricultural and other development). Proper management will depend on understanding the biophysical relationships and connectivities in these systems.

This project will develop a core floodplain hydrological model to quantify two important aspects of hydro-ecological functioning: (i) sources, sinks and transport of sediments and nutrients across floodplains, and (ii) connectivity of wetland systems within floodplains. In parallel, we will develop conceptual models of the ecological dynamics of these systems and how these interact with the hydrological processes. Ecological work to test the models of ecological processes and dynamics and links to estuarine systems will depend on the level of co-investment in the project.

The overall objective of Project 3.7.4 is to develop the capability to predict the impacts of changes in land use, management and climate on the flow and water quality regimes and ecological dynamics in the wetlands and floodplains of catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. This is to be achieved via the following key objectives:

  • Quantifying how the flood regime affects the main sinks and sources of sediment and nutrient and their transport across floodplains;

  • Development of a model to predict how the hydrological response and connectivity of tropical floodplains are affected by land use, land and water management and climate; and

  • Development of models that link ecological structure (e.g. biodiversity, community patterns) and processes to the core floodplain hydrology model to quantify the consequences of changes in water body connectivity between freshwater and saline waterways for biodiversity, biological connectivity and proper ecological function.

This project will make links with several other MTSRF and non-MTSRF Projects, particularly Project 3.7.2, and CSIRO and other wetland-orientated research. Our hydrological workshop will involve representatives from all of the MTSRF-funded water quality projects and there will be particularly strong links with Projects 3.7.1 and 3.7.2, as they will be working in the marine environment adjacent to the Tully-Murray catchments.

The biophysical information generated by this project will be linked with appropriate socio-economic aspects of land use change via the economic case studies that Project 3.7.5 will carry out in the Wet Tropics. Socio-economic links will also be strengthened via the geographical co-location of Project 3.7.4 and social and economic studies funded by CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country (WFHC) in the Tully-Murray catchments. Our main contribution to the Integrated Reporting will be delivered via our wetland connectivity index Decision Support System (DSS). This DSS will then be used to clarify how the current Queensland Wetlands program assessment could be improved. Subject to co-investment to support additional components, this project will develop its ecological scope in close collaboration with Project 3.7.3.

Further Information

Ms Sheriden Morris
Water Quality Program Research Manager
Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited
Tel: (07) 4050 7400


Unique Zones - Coastal Wetlands and Floodplains

Major Project Outputs

The Annual Research Plans, or ARPs, outline the specific tasks, products, budgets and staff for each research project within each of the Research Themes and Programs of the MTSRF.  The ARPs also outline the key deliverables, or 'project milestones' (e.g. major reports, journal articles, communications products) to be achieved.

An ARP is developed for each operating year of the MTSRF (2006-2010).

Details of this and previous years' outputs from this project are included in each of the Annual Research Plans

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