Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 13, pp 3165–3188 | Cite as

Assessing the ecological values of rivers: an application of a multi-criteria approach to rivers of the South Coast Region, Western Australia

Original Paper

Abstract

There is a growing awareness that in the light of increased threats, Australia’s freshwater ecosystems of highest value need to be protected. This implies that a consistent and comprehensive system for the classification of freshwater systems in terms of their ecological values is required for conservation planning. Despite earlier steps taken to develop appropriate methodologies for prioritising Australian waterways for protection, there is, as yet, no nationally agreed method for prioritising waterways in Australia based on their ecological values. Using the core criteria of naturalness, representativeness, diversity, rarity and special features, this paper describes the development of a framework of criteria, indicators and measures for the identification of high conservation value aquatic ecosystems, and trials this system by undertaking a comparative assessment of the ecological values of river systems in the South Coast region, Western Australia. A total of 33 river systems located in two aquatic bioregions were successfully ranked according to their ecological value, confirming that the development and implementation of a relatively simple system for assessing ecological values of Australian rivers shows promise, and that core criteria identified previously in the literature provide a good starting point for assessing ecological values of Australian aquatic ecosystems.

Keywords

Aquatic ecosystems Australia Conservation value Ecological value Prioritisation 

References

  1. Abell R (2002) Conservation biology for the biodiversity crisis: a freshwater follow-up. Cons Biol 16:1435–1437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angermeier PL, Winston MR (1997) Assessing conservation value of stream communities: a comparison of approaches based on centres of density and species richness. Freshw Biol 37:699–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baschak LA, Brown RD (1995) An ecological framework for the planning, design and management of urban river greenways. Landsc Urb Plan 33:211–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beard JS (1990) Plant life of Western Australia. Kangaroo Press, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  5. Beard JS, Chapman AR, Gioia P (2000) Species richness and endemism in the Western Australian flora. J Biogeography 27:1257–1268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Belbin L (1993) Environmental representativeness: regional partitioning and reserve selection. Biol Conserv 66:223–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bennett J, Sanders N, Moulton D, Phillips N, Lukacs G, Walker K, Redfern F (2002) Guidelines for protecting Australian waterways. Land and Water Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  8. Boon PJ (2000) The development of integrated methods for assessing river conservation value. Hydrobiologia 422(423):413–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boon PJ, Wilkinson J, Martin J (1998) The application of SERCON (system for evaluating rivers for conservation) to a selection of rivers in Britain. Aquat Conserv Marine Freshw Ecosyst 8:597–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boon PJ, Holmes NTH, Maitland PS, Fozzard IR (2002) Developing a new version of SERCON (system for evaluating river for conservation). Aquat Conserv Marine Freshw Ecosyst 12:439–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bradbury J, Williams WD (1999) Key to and checklist of the inland aquatic amphipods of Australia. Technical reports of the Australian museum no. 14Google Scholar
  12. Bunn SE, Davies PM (1990) Why is the stream fauna of south-western Australia so impoverished? Hydrobiologia 194:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke CJ, George RJ, Bell RW, Hatton TJ (2002) Dryland salinity in south-western Australia: its origins, remedies, and future research directions. Aust J Soil Res 40:93–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dudgeon D, Arthington AH, Gessner MO, Kawabata Z-I, Knowler DJ, Leveque C, Naiman RJ, Prieur-Richard A-H, Soto D, Stiassny MLJ, Sullivan CA (2005) Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biol Rev 81:163–182PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dunn H (2000) Identifying and protecting rivers of high ecological value. Occasional paper no. 01.00. Land Water Resources Research and Development Corporation, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  16. Dunn H (2003) Can conservation assessment criteria developed for terrestrial systems be applied to riverine systems? Aquat Ecosyst Health Manag 6:81–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fitzsimons JA, Robertson HA (2005) Freshwater reserves in Australia: directions and challenges for the development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas. Hydrobiologia 552:87–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gunby C, Arrowsmith N (2004) Southern prospects 2004–2009 south coast regional strategy for natural resource management background Paper 4 water resources in the south coast region. Department of Environment, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  19. Haase R, Nolte U (2008) The invertebrate species index (ISI) for streams in southeast Queensland, Australia. Ecol Indic 8:599–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Halse SA, Ruprecht JK, Pinder AM (2003) Salinisation and prospects for biodiversity in rivers and wetlands of south-west Western Australia. Aust J Bot 51:673–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harris JH, Silveira R (1999) Large-scale assessments of river health using an Index of Biotic Integrity with low-diversity fish communities. Freshw Biol 41:235–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kay WR, Halse SA, Scanlon MD, Smith MJ (2001) Distribution and environmental tolerances of aquatic macroinvertebrate families in the agricultural zone of southwestern Australia. J N Am Benthol Soc 20:182–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kennard MJ, Pusey BJ, Arthington AH, Harch BD, Mackay SJ (2006) Development and application of a predictive model of freshwater fish assemblage composition to evaluate river health in eastern Australia. Hydrobiologia 572:33–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kingsford RT, Nevill J (2005) Scientists urge expansion of freshwater protected areas. Ecol Manag Restor 6:161–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kingsford RT, Dunn H, Love D, Nevill J, Stein J, Tait J (2005) Protecting Australia’s rivers, wetlands and estuaries of high conservation value: a blueprint. Report to Land and Water Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  26. Ladson AR, White LJ, Doolan JA, Finlayson BL, Hart BT, Lake S, Tilleard JW (1999) Development and testing of an index of stream condition for waterway management in Australia. Freshw Biol 41:453–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Linke S, Pressey RL, Bailey RC, Norris RH (2007) Management options for river conservation planning: condition and conservation re-visited. Freshw Biol 52:918–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morgan DL, Gill HS, Potter IC (1998) Distribution, identification and biology of freshwater fishes in south-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian museum supplement no. 56Google Scholar
  29. Morgan DL, Chapman A, Beatty SJ, Gill HS (2006) Distribution of the spotted minnow (Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns, 1842)) (Teleostei: Galaxiidae) in Western Australia including range extensions and sympatric species. Rec West Aust Mus 23:7–11Google Scholar
  30. Munasinghe DHN, Burridge CP, Austin CM (2004) Molecular phylogeny and zoogeography of the freshwater crayfish genus Cherax Erichson (Decapoda: Parastacidae) in Australia. Biol J Linn Soc 81:553–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG, da Fonseca GAB, Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. National Water Commission (2007) Australian water resources 2005. A baseline assessment of water resources for the national water initiative. Level 2 Assessment. River and wetland health theme. Assessment of river and wetland health: a framework for comparative assessment of the ecological condition of Australian rivers and wetlands. Australian Government, National Water Commission, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  33. Nevill J (2007) Climate change: challenges facing freshwater protected area planning in Australia. In: Taylor M, Figgis P (eds) Protected areas: buffering nature against climate change. Proceedings of a WWF and IUCN world commision on protected areas symposium, 18–19 June 2007, Canberra, WWF Australia, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  34. Nickoll R, Horwitz P (2000) Chapter 57. Evaluating flagship species for ecosystem restoration: a case study involving freshwater crayfish and a river in southwestern Australia. In: Craig JL, Mitchell N, Saunders DA (eds) Nature conservation 5: nature conservation in production environments: managing the matrix. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  35. Norris RH, Linke S, Prosser I, Young WJ, Liston P, Bauer N, Sloane N, Dyer F, Thoms M (2007) Very-broad-scale assessment of human impacts on river condition. Freshw Biol 52:959–976CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Parsons M, Thoms MC, Norris RH (2004) Development of a standardised approach to river habitat assessment in Australia. Environ Monit Assess 98:109–130PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Phillips N, Bennett J, Moulton D (2001) Principles and tools for protecting Australian rivers. Queensland Government, Environmental Protection Agency, QLD, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  38. Pinder AM, Halse SA, McRae JM, Shiel RJ (2004) Aquatic invertebrate assemblages of wetlands and rivers in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. Rec West Aust Mus Suppl 67:7–37Google Scholar
  39. Pinder AM, Halse SA, McRae JM, Shiel RJ (2005) Occurrence of aquatic invertebrates of the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia in relation to salinity. Hydrobiologia 543:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ricciardi A, Rasmussen JB (1999) Extinction rates of North American freshwater fauna. Cons Biol 13:1220–1222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Saunders DL, Meeuwig JJ, Vincent CJ (2002) Freshwater protected areas: strategies for conservation. Cons Biol 16:30–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith MJ, Kay WR, Edward DHD, Papas PJ, Richardson KS, Simpson JC, Pinder AM, Cale DJ, Horwitz PHJ, Davis JA, Yung FH, Norris RH, Halse SA (1999) AusRivAS: using macroinvertebrates to assess ecological condition of rivers in Western Australia. Freshw Biol 41:269–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. St Clair RM (2000) Preliminary keys for the identification of Australian caddisfly larvae of the family Leptoceridae. Identification guide no 27. Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, Albury, New South WalesGoogle Scholar
  44. Stein JL, Stein JA, Nix HA (2002) Spatial analysis of anthropogenic river disturbance at regional and continental scales: identifying the wild rivers of Australia. Landsc Urb Plan 60:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stewart BA (2009) Two aquatic bioregions proposed for the South Coast Region, Western Australia. J R Soc West Aust 92:277–287Google Scholar
  46. Stewart BA (2011) An assessment of the impacts of timber plantations on water quality and biodiversity values of Marbellup Brook, Western Australia. Environ Monit Assess 173:941–953PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Storey AW, Halse SA, Shiel RJ (1993) Aquatic invertebrate fauna of the two peoples bay area, south-western Australia. J R Soc West Aust 76:25–32Google Scholar
  48. Strayer DL, Dudgeon D (2010) Freshwater biodiversity conservation: recent progress and future challenges. J North Am Benthol Soc 29:344–358Google Scholar
  49. Sutcliffe K (2003) The Conservation status of aquatic insects in South-western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch UniversityGoogle Scholar
  50. Turak E, Koop K (2008) Multi-attribute ecological river typology for assessing ecological condition and conservation planning. Hydrobiologia 603:83–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Walker J, Dowling T, Veitch S (2006) An assessment of catchment condition in Australia. Ecol Indic 6:205–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Watson JR (1991) Chapter 7 The identification of river foreshore corridors for nature conservation in the South Coast Region of Western Australia. In: Saunders DA, Hobbs RJ (eds) Nature conservation 2: the role of corridors. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  53. Yates AG, Bailey RC (2010) Selecting objectively defined reference sites for stream bioassessment programs. Environ Monit Assess 170:129–140PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Western AustraliaAlbanyAustralia

Personalised recommendations