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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(3)

Linking water-resource models to ecosystem-response models to guide water-resource planning – an example from the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia

Rebecca E. Lester A C, Ian T. Webster B, Peter G. Fairweather A and William J. Young B

A School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.
B CSIRO Land and Water, Clunies Ross Street, Black Mountain, ACT 2601, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: Rebecca.Lester@flinders.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(3) 279-289 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF09298
Submitted: 30 November 2009  Accepted: 10 October 2010   Published: 18 March 2011


 
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Abstract

Objectively assessing ecological benefits of competing watering strategies is difficult. We present a framework of coupled models to compare scenarios, using the Coorong, the estuary for the Murray–Darling River system in South Australia, as a case study. The framework links outputs from recent modelling of the effects of climate change on water availability across the Murray–Darling Basin to a hydrodynamic model for the Coorong, and then an ecosystem-response model. The approach has significant advantages, including the following: (1) evaluating management actions is straightforward because of relatively tight coupling between impacts on hydrology and ecology; (2) scenarios of 111 years reveal the impacts of realistic climatic and flow variability on Coorong ecology; and (3) ecological impact is represented in the model by a series of ecosystem states, integrating across many organisms, not just iconic species. We applied the approach to four flow scenarios, comparing conditions without development, current water-use levels, and two predicted future climate scenarios. Simulation produced a range of hydrodynamic conditions and consequent distributions of ecosystem states, allowing managers to compare scenarios. This approach could be used with many climates and/or management actions for optimisation of flow delivery to environmental assets.

Additional keywords: climate change, Coorong, ecosystem states, environmental flows, environmental management, hydrodynamic modelling, Ramsar wetland, water extraction.


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