Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
REVIEW

Eight river principles for navigating the science–policy interface

Melissa Parsons A , Martin C. Thoms A C and Joseph E. Flotemersch B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Riverine Landscapes Research Laboratory, Geography and Planning, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B National Exposure Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W. Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: martin.thoms@une.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(3) 401-410 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15336
Submitted: 31 August 2015  Accepted: 9 March 2016   Published: 16 May 2016

Abstract

Scientists and policymakers often work together to develop policy about the sustainable use of river ecosystems. River science plays an important role in developing river policy but how can key aspects of river science be conveyed as a heuristic to navigate the interface between river science and river policy? This paper introduces eight principles that encapsulate the key properties of rivers to consider during the development of river policy: (1) rivers are social–ecological systems; (2) river ecosystems provide valuable ecosystem services; (3) tools should support policy development; (4) knowledge of river ecosystems will always be incomplete; (5) social–ecological systems require interdisciplinary perspectives; (6) science is one of many inputs to be considered; (7) heterogeneity and variability are characteristic of river ecosystems; and (8) scale awareness is essential in river ecosystems. Whereas policy challenges are associated with each principle, consideration of principles in the context of the issue at hand may increase the robustness of river policy and enhance the sustainability of river ecosystems. The eight principles are evaluated in relation to the Water Act 2007 and the draft Murray–Darling Basin Plan to demonstrate how the principles can enhance policy development in the area of water allocation.

Additional keywords: Murray–Darling Basin, river management, social–ecological systems, water policy.


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