Flow-MER Research

Flow-MER invests in research to deliver improved methods and a richer evaluation of environmental outcomes from Commonwealth environmental water. The Basin-scale Flow-MER project invests in research to support environmental water management and inform and enhance Basin-scale evaluation and complements research undertaken at Selected Areas. The research portfolio was developed through a collaborative research prioritisation and planning process undertaken in 2019 with the Selected Areas and the CEWH. Research was funded that would:

  • leverage research already being undertaken in the Basin
  • inform the evaluation of outcomes of Commonwealth environmental water
  • inform adaptive management of Commonwealth environmental water
  • complement science being undertaken across Selected Areas and integrate across the Basin and across Basin Themes.

The research portfolio funded 13 projects between 2019 and 2024. The outcomes of this research are summarised in the Research Summary.

Flow-MER Basin-scale research projects, project leaders and links to research reports

Project and leader(s)Research summary
Heather McGinness
Waterbird movements and site use across the Basin
This project quantifies spatial and temporal scales of waterbird movements and habitat selection across the Murray-Darling Basin. It uses satellite tracking technology and advanced analysis and modelling approaches to investigate relationships between waterbird movements, habitat selection, environmental watering, flooding, and other variables. Outputs include an internal status report, Flow-MER Friday webinar(s), web-based communications, conference and learning by doing presentations and associated journal papers.
Research report in preparation
Joanne Bennett
Identification and characterisation of refuge habitat
This project helped us understand how ecological refugia are distributed across the Basin and the potential for water management of these areas to support diversity. Research outputs include a research report, web-based communication and Flow-MER Friday webinar.
Research report ‘Identifying and characterising refugia habitat for target organisms across the Murray–Darling Basin
Shane Brooks
Tanya Doody
Influence of ecosystem condition on responses to environmental water
This project identified ecosystem condition attributes that help to explain watering outcomes in different ecosystem types. It identified measures of ecosystem condition that could be used to adjust expected outcomes and tailor evaluation to better match the context under which water is being delivered. Research outputs included Flow-MER Friday webinar, web-based communications, conference and workshop presentations.
Research report in preparation
Shane Brooks
Developing an approach to scaling for evaluating ecosystem diversity
This project developed approaches for scaling evaluation of watering outcomes from individual habitat patches to the whole Basin. This work has provided tools for evaluating ecosystem diversity at spatial scales aligned to the scale of watering actions. Output is a research report, Flow-MER Friday webinar, Forum presentations, and spatial layers.
Research report in preparation
Non-woody plants
Cherie Campbell
Fiona Dyer
Characterising condition for non-woody vegetation in floodplain-wetland systems
This research developed a framework of hierarchical condition and a process for evaluating success of outcomes for non-woody vegetation at a Basin-scale. Output is a series of journal papers, Flow-MER Friday webinars, web-based articles, conference and workshop presentations (PhD thesis).
Research report in preparation
Remote sensing vegetation
Tanya Doody
Remote sensing responses of woody vegetation to environmental water
The project developed a basin-scale remote sensing product to understand changes in tree water stress at a resolution of 30m for each month from 2000-2022, for each tree pixel across the Murray–Darling Basin. Research outcomes improve our understanding of tree response to water availability and allow us to identify water requirement thresholds for woody vegetation. Research outputs include Flow-MER Friday webinar, web-based articles, conference and workshop presentations and journal articles.
Research report in preparation
Fish populations
Charles Todd
Fish population models to inform Commonwealth environmental watering
Population models demonstrate the benefits of environmental water to fish populations. Improving the robustness of the population models. This research explicitly linked flow management to whole-of-lifecycle responses for a suite of native fish species. Research outputs include a research report, Flow-MER Friday webinar, web-based articles and presentations.
Research report Fish population models to inform Commonwealth water for the environment
Fish movement
Brenton Zampatti
Jason Thiem
Flow, movement and fish population dynamics in the Murray–Darling Basin
Research evaluated flow triggers for local and regional scale fish movement to standardise environmental water requirements among fish species and regions in the Basin. This research improves our understanding of landscape-scale fish movements and population resilience and informs delivery of environmental water for connectivity, fish passage and maintaining refugia for migrating fish. Research outputs include a research report, interactive webpage, Flow-MER Friday Webinar, conference and learning by doing presentations.
Research report ‘Regional and inter-regional fish movement responses to river discharge to inform Commonwealth water for the environment​’
Ecosystem energetics
Paul McInerney
Developing an environmental water energetics response model
This project developed a bioenergetic model for food web response to flow, initially focusing on refuge habitats, then extended to wetlands and flowing water habitats. Research outputs include an interactive webpage, Flow-MER Friday Webinar, conference and workshop presentations.
Research report in preparation
Flow ecology relationships
Danial Stratford
Developing flow-ecology relationships to predict responses to environmental water
This project undertook data analysis to understand flow-ecology responses and developed these into a scientifically sound modelling method for Flow-MER evaluation. Research outputs include Flow-MER Friday webinar, web communications and presentations.
Research report ‘Sensitivity testing of an ecohydrological model for evaluating outcomes of environmental water
Research report ‘Modelling flow-ecology relationships for understory vegetation across the Murray–Darling Basin
Integrative modelling
Rebecca Lester
Integrative basin modelling
The research project developed an integrative basin modelling framework to inform our understanding of interactions between thematic areas, scale and locations. The model combines information in space and time, and across biota, to explore scenarios, and test reasons for observed outcomes at the Basin-scale. Research outputs include Flow-MER Friday webinar, web communications and presentations.
Research report ‘Integrative modelling framework to evaluate multi-scale impacts of environmental watering
Martin Nolan
Data visualisation
This project integrated data across Themes to develop data visualisation products for communicating the outcomes of basin-scale monitoring, evaluation and research. It develops optimum means of presenting raw and processed data, modelling outputs and research results to inform policy and decision making. Research outputs are being used in web communications for each research theme in the form of ‘dashboards’ showing water actions at Basin scale.
Research report ‘Data visualisation research project: final report
Indigenous engagement
Bradley Moggridge
Emma Woodward
Co-designing engagement with Indigenous peoples for better environmental water delivery
This project described Indigenous engagement practices and experiences drawing on Selected Areas and a case study in the Gwydir catchment developed in partnership with traditional owners on-country. Selected Area survey report completed and available.  Research outputs include Flow-MER Friday webinar, web-based communications and conference presentations.
Research report available on request