Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Environmental flows, river salinity and biodiversity conservation: managing trade-offs in the Murray–Darling basin

Australian Journal of Botany 51(6) 619 - 625
Published: 01 December 2003


The Murray–Darling basin's river system suffers from over-allocation of water resources to consumptive use and salinity threats to water quality. This paper draws attention to the current state of knowledge and the need for further investigations into the biological effect of river salinity on aquatic biota and ecosystems, the threats of dryland salinity to terrestrial biodiversity, and managing environmental flows and salinity control to limit the trade-offs in water-resource security and river salinity.

There is growing evidence that river salt concentrations lower than the normally adopted threshold have sublethal effects on species and ecosystems, over a longer time period. Further knowledge is required.

There is no agreed process for incorporating terrestrial biodiversity values at risk into a strategic response for dryland-salinity management. This is a public policy issue to be addressed.

Recent studies have quantified the trade-off in surface water flow and river salinity from refforestation and revegetation of upland catchments to control salinity. The potential losses or benefits to environmental values have not been quantified.

Such improved knowledge is important to the Murray–Darling basin and relevant to other river basins and catchments in Australia.

© CSIRO 2003

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