Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Flow–ecology relationships: closing the loop on effective environmental flows

Peter M. Davies A D , Robert J. Naiman A B , Danielle M. Warfe A , Neil E. Pettit A , Angela H. Arthington C and Stuart E. Bunn C

A Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia, Albany, WA 6330, Australia.

B School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.

C Australia Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: peter.davies@uwa.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(2) 133-141 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13110
Submitted: 26 April 2013  Accepted: 4 July 2013   Published: 20 September 2013

Abstract

Providing flows for biota and environmental processes is a challenging water management issue. For society the ability and willingness to allocate water to sustain the environment is increasingly competitive due to escalating demand and as a consequence of climate change. In response, an array of environmental flow (E-flow) methods have developed. Our view is that few E-flows have been implemented and even fewer evaluated in a research and management context. Much of our science effort in E-flows has been directed primarily at method development, with less attention being given to monitoring, evaluation and subsequent revision of E-flow strategies. Our objectives are to highlight the lack of connection between current trends in E-flow literature and theory with assessment of the efficacy and practical application of these methods. Specifically, effective E-flows need to be explicit about flow-ecology relationships to adequately determine the amount and timing of water required. We briefly outline the historical development of E-flows and discuss how serial development of methods and techniques has restricted implementation, evaluation and revision. We highlight areas where methods are lacking, such as incorporation of data on flow-ecology relationships into operational use of E-flow methods. We suggest four initial steps that will improve the applicability, implementation and ultimate success of E-flows.

Additional keywords: adaptive management, environmental watering, floodplain wetlands, flow-ecology relationships, freshwater, rivers.


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