Article

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 10, pp 8583-8600

Application of thresholds of potential concern and limits of acceptable change in the condition assessment of a significant wetland

  • Kerrylee RogersAffiliated withSchool of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Wollongong
  • , Neil SaintilanAffiliated withRivers and Wetlands Unit, Office of Environment and Heritage Email author 
  • , Matthew J. ColloffAffiliated withCSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
  • , Li WenAffiliated withRivers and Wetlands Unit, Office of Environment and Heritage

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Abstract

We propose a framework in which thresholds of potential concern (TPCs) and limits of acceptable change (LACs) are used in concert in the assessment of wetland condition and vulnerability and apply the framework in a case study. The lower Murrumbidgee River floodplain (the ‘Lowbidgee’) is one of the most ecologically important wetlands in Australia and the focus of intense management intervention by State and Federal government agencies. We used a targeted management stakeholder workshop to identify key values that contribute to the ecological significance of the Lowbidgee floodplain, and identified LACs that, if crossed, would signify the loss of significance. We then used conceptual models linking the condition of these values (wetland vegetation communities, waterbirds, fish species and the endangered southern bell frog) to measurable threat indicators, for which we defined a management goal and a TPC. We applied this framework to data collected across 70 wetland storages’, or eco-hydrological units, at the peak of a prolonged drought (2008) and following extensive re-flooding (2010). At the suggestion of water and wetland mangers, we neither aggregated nor integrated indices but reported separately in a series of chloropleth maps. The resulting assessment clearly identified the effect of rewetting in restoring indicators within TPC in most cases, for most storages. The scale of assessment was useful in informing the targeted and timely management intervention and provided a context for retaining and utilising monitoring information in an adaptive management context.

Keywords

Monitoring Inundation Decision making Management Indicators Environmental water