Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
COMMENT AND RESPONSE

Assessment of rivers as social–ecological systems: a response to ‘The imperative need for nationally coordinated bioassessment of rivers and streams’, by Susan J. Nichols et al.

Melissa Parsons A B and Martin C. Thoms A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

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

B Corresponding author. Email: melissa.parsons@une.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(12) 2179-2183 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF17012
Submitted: 20 January 2017  Accepted: 9 June 2017   Published: 17 July 2017

Abstract

Nichols et al. in Marine and Freshwater Research (https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15329) call for a reinvestment in national-scale bioassessment in Australia. With recent transition back to single-impact and subcatchment-level assessment, Nichols et al. (2017) argued that the ability to detect larger-scale and longer-term impacts of climate change and land-use change are being lost. They called for modernising bioassessment through programs with a clear policy mandate, political context and which are fit for purpose with currency and relevance. We agree that the absence of a national-scale assessment of river health is impeding the detection of declines in river health. However, we suggest that assessment of river health in Australia should go beyond bioassessment and assess rivers as social–ecological systems. We call for modernisation through a national assessment of river resilience. Monitoring for river resilience will evaluate not only the biophysical state of a river ecosystem, but the state of social influences on river health, and the capacities of society to adapt and transform towards river-ecosystem sustainability.

Additional keywords: biological monitoring, resilience, river science.


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