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Northern Australian Water Resource Assessment: Freshwater and Marine Environmental Assessment

Posted by: sen044

April 23, 2018

The Challenge

Northern Australia has extensive ecosystems that are largely untouched. The ecology of northern Australia has a rich biodiversity and numerous unique inland and marine ecosystems that support conservation and cultural values and tourism and commercial industries. Northern Australia is vast, as are its inland and marine ecosystems. To understand change, knowledge needs are:

  • Characterise and map water-dependent assets (species, functional groups, habitats, processes)
  • Synthesise and develop knowledge on the potential changes to these under change scenarios
  • Modelling the potential changes to assets under development scenarios
  • Evaluating system-scale impacts and benefits of development
mound sprint in northern territory
Wetland in Northern Territory. PHOTO: Tanya Doody

Our Response

Agricultural intensification of northern Australia will change land use and increase demands. Climate change has already had an impact (e.g. death of mangroves) as have invasive plants and animals (e.g. mimosa and cane toads).

Working with government and university-based partners, CSIRO is:

  • Mapping the distribution of ecological assets across the Fitzroy (WA) catchment; Mitchell (Qld) catchment and Darwin (Finniss; Adelaide; Mary Wildman; NT) catchments
  • Synthesising knowledge of relationships between assets and water, among other drivers of change in catchments;
  • Applying a range of modelling solutions to assess potential change in the condition of assets under development scenarios, considering interactions of climate change;
  • Evaluating system scale impacts and benefits of development, considering other stressors and local management of threates.
  • Our capability

Capability is drawn from freshwater and marine ecologists, system ecologist, hydrologists, informatics specialists, spatial analysts, remote sensing and quantitative ecologists. The projecthas contracts with three universities to address capability gaps in northern Australia aquatic ecosystems and for specialist species, including the freshwater sawfish. We collaborate with the Northern NESP Hub, in sharing data and findings.

  • Science and Innovation

Using existing but disparate knowledge drawn from past investments in the ecology of Northern Australia, combined with new information drawn from remote sensing and hydrological modelling, we are using predictive modelling approaches to model potential change across broad scales. An assessment of change in inland and marine systems has not been done before.

Innovative approaches to enable integrative, repeated and transparent analyses are being delivered, to inform future analyses, or re-purpose for other assessments.

lovely rier with overhanging green vegetation
River in the tropics of Northern Australia. PHOTO: Tanya Doody


Results will be made available in July 2018

Contact Person

Dr Carmel Pollino