Incorporating Natural Variability into the Assessment of Ecological Health in Australian Dryland Rivers Article DOI:
Cite this article as: Sheldon, F. Hydrobiologia (2005) 552: 45. doi:10.1007/s10750-005-1504-7 Abstract
Dryland rivers occur over much of Australia’s inland and have some of the most variable patterns of flow in the world. Despite their dominance in terms of Australia’s river types, dryland rivers have not been the focus of the recent increase in research on indicators of river health, mostly owing to their spatial remoteness and relatively low levels of water resource development and human disturbance. Most rivers in arid and semi-arid regions are ephemeral, and only carry significant flows during the wetter months or following infrequent but intense rainfall events. It is not known which, if any, of the existing approaches to river health assessment can be used to accurately assess the health of these large ephemeral rivers. This paper considers why the standard methods for interpreting the currently-used indicators for river health may need to be adapted for variable systems and suggests the use of trends that recognise natural variation in indicator values for undertaking this.
Keywords Australia ecological indicators macroinvertebrates river health References Arthington, A. H., Balcombe, S. R., Wilson, G. G., Thoms, M. C. 2005 Spatial and temporal variations in fish assemblage structure within isolated waterholes of the Cooper Creek system, Australia Marine and Freshwater Research 56 25 35 CrossRef Google Scholar Boulton, A. J. 1999 An overview of river health assessment: philosophies, practice, problems and prognosis Freshwater Biology 41 469 480 CrossRef Google Scholar Boulton, A. J., Sheldon, F., Thoms, M. C., Stanley, E. 2000 Problems and constraints in managing rivers with variable flow regimes Boon, P. J. Davies, B. R. Petts, G. E. eds. Global Perspectives on River Conservation: Science, Policy and Practice Wiley Chichester 415 430 Google Scholar Boulton, A. J., Sheldon, F., Jenkins, K. 2006 Natural disturbance and aquatic invertebrates in desert rivers Kingsford, R. T. eds. Ecology of Desert Rivers Cambridge University Press UK 133 153 Google Scholar Bunn, S. E., Davies, P. M., Mosisch, T. D. 1999 Ecosystem measures of river health and their response to riparian and catchment degradation Freshwater Biology 41 333 345 CrossRef Google Scholar Bunn, S. E., Davies, P. M., Winning, M. 2003 Sources of organic carbon supporting the food web of an arid zone floodplain river Freshwater Biology 48 619 635 CrossRef Google Scholar Capon, S. J. 2003 Plant community responses to wetting and drying in a large arid floodplain River Research and Applications 19 509 520 CrossRef Google Scholar Chessman, B. C. 1995 Rapid assessment of rivers using macroinvertebrates: a procedure based on habitat-specific sampling, family-level identification, and a biotic index Australian Journal of Ecology 20 122 129 Google Scholar
Chessman, B. C., 2003. SIGNAL 2 – A scoring system for macro-invertebrates (‘water bugs’) in Australian rivers. Monitoring River Health Initiative Technical Report No. 31, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Chessman, B. C., Royal, M. J. 2004 Bioassessment without reference sites: use of environmental filters to predict natural assemblages of river macroinvertebrates Journal of the North American Benthological Society 23 599 615 CrossRef Google Scholar
Coysh, J., S. Nichols, G. Ransom, J. Simpson, R. Norris, L. Barmuta & B. Chessman, 2000. AUSRIVAS Macroinvertebrate Bioassessment: Predictive Modeling Manual. National River Health Program. Land and Water Australia. http://ausrivas.canberra.edu.au/Bioassessment/Macroinvertebrates/Man/Pred/.
EHMP, 2004. Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program 2002–2003. Annual Technical Report. Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchments Partnership, Brisbane.
Hart, B. T., Maher, W., Lawrence, I. 1999 New generation water quality guidelines for ecosystem protection Freshwater Biology 41 347 359 CrossRef Google Scholar Holling, C. S. 1973 Resilience and stability of ecological systems Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4 1 23 CrossRef Google Scholar Jenkins, K. M., Boulton, A. J. 2003 Connectivity in a dryland river: short-term aquatic microinvertebrate recruitment following floodplain inundation Ecology 84 2708 2723 Google Scholar Ladson, A. R., White, L. J., Doolan, J. A., Finlayson, B. L., Hart, B. T., Lake, P. S., Tilleard, J. W. 1999 Development and testing of an Index of Stream Condition for waterway management in Australia Freshwater Biology 41 453 469 CrossRef Google Scholar Lake, P. S. 2003 Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters Freshwater Biology 48 1161 1172 CrossRef Google Scholar Marchant, R., Hirst, A., Norris, R. H., Butcher, R., Metzeling, L., Tiller, D. 1997 Classification and prediction of macroinvertebrate assemblages from running waters in Victoria, Australia Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16 664 681 Google Scholar Marchant, R., Hirst, A., Norris, R., Metzeling, L. 1999 Classification of macroinvertebrate communities across drainage basins in Victoria, Australia: consequences of sampling on a broad spatial scale for predictive modelling Freshwater Biology 41 253 268 CrossRef Google Scholar
Marshall J. C., F. Sheldon, M. C. Thoms & S. Choy, in press. The macroinvertebrate fauna of an Australian dryland river system: spatial and temporal patterns in environmental relationships. Marine and Freshwater Research.
Moller, G. I., 1994. State of the Rivers – Cooper Creek and Major Tributaries. Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines Report QDNR01027, Brisbane.
Morton, S. R., J. Short & R. D. Barker, 1995. Refugia for biological diversity in arid and semi-arid Australia. Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Biodiversity Series, Paper 4, Biodiversity Unit. Canberra, Australia.
Norris, R. H., Thoms, M. C. 1999 What is river health? Freshwater Biology 41 197 209 CrossRef Google Scholar Pickup, G. 1989 New land degradation survey techniques for arid Australia: problems and prospects Australian Rangelands Journal 11 74 82 Google Scholar Pickup, G., Chewings, V. H. 1994 A grazing gradient approach to land degradation assessment in arid areas from remotely-sensed data International Journal of Remote Sensing 15 597 617 Google Scholar Poff, N. L. 1997 Landscape filters and species traits: Towards mechanistic understanding and prediction in stream ecology Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16 391 409 Google Scholar Puckridge, J. T. 1999 The role of hydrology in the biology of dryland rivers Kingsford, R. T. eds. A Free-Flowing River: The Ecology of the Paroo River National Parks and Wildlife Service Sydney 97 112 Google Scholar Puckridge, J. T., Sheldon, F., Walker, K. F., Boulton, A. J. 1998 Flow variability and the ecology of large rivers Marine and Freshwater Research 49 55 72 CrossRef Google Scholar Puckridge, J. T., Walker, K. F., Costelloe, J. F. 2000 Hydrological persistence and the ecology of dryland rivers Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 16 385 402 CrossRef Google Scholar Reynoldson, T. B., Norris, R. H., Resh, V. H., Day, K. E., Rosenberg, D. M. 1997 The reference condition of multimetric and multivariate approaches to assess water quality impairment using benthic macroinvertebrates Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16 833 852 Google Scholar Schofield, N. J., Davies, P. E. 1996 Measuring the health of our rivers Water (Australia) 23 39 43 Google Scholar Sheldon, F., Puckridge, J. T. 1998 Macroinvertebrate assemblages of Goyder Lagoon, Diamantina River, South Australia Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 122 17 31 Google Scholar Sheldon, F., Walker, K. F. 1998 Spatial distribution of littoral invertebrates in the lower Murray-Darling River system, Australia Marine and Freshwater Research 49 171 182 CrossRef Google Scholar Sheldon, F., Thoms, M. C., Berry, O., Puckridge, J. T. 2000 Using disaster to prevent catastrophe: referencing the impacts of flow changes in large dryland rivers Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 16 403 420 CrossRef Google Scholar Sheldon, F., Boulton, A. J., Puckridge, J. T. 2002 Conservation value of variable connectivity: aquatic invertebrate assemblages of channel and floodplain habitats of a central Australian arid-zone river, Cooper Creek Biological Conservation 103 13 31 CrossRef Google Scholar Sheldon, F., Boulton, A. J., Puckridge, J. T. 2003 Variable connection structures invertebrate composition in dryland rivers Records of the South Australian Museum Monograph Series 7 119 130 Google Scholar
Sheldon, F., F. McKenzie-Smith & P. Brunner, 2005. Methodology for Assessing the Health of Lake Eyre Basin Rivers. Final Report to Land and Water Australia, Canberra.
Smith, M. J., Kay, W. R., Edward, D. H. D., Papas, P. J., Richardson, K. J., Simpson, J. C., Pinder, A. M., Cale, D. J., Horwitz, P. H. J., Davis, J. A., Yung, F. H., Norris, R. H., Halse, S. A. 1999 AUSRIVAS: using macroinvertebrates to assess ecological condition of rivers in Western Australia Freshwater Biology 41 269 282 CrossRef Google Scholar Smith, M. J. Storey, A. W. eds. 2001Design and Implementation of Baseline Monitoring (DIBM3): Developing an Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program for Rivers and Streams in Southeast Queensland South East Queensland Regional Water Quality Management Strategy Brisbane Google Scholar Thoms, M. C., Sheldon, F. 2000a Water resource development and hydrological change in a large dryland river: The Barwon-Darling River, Australia Journal of Hydrology 228 10 21 CrossRef Google Scholar Thoms, M. C., Sheldon, F. 2000b Lowland rivers: an Australian introduction Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 16 375 383 CrossRef Google Scholar Unmack, P. J. 2001 Fish persistence and fluvial geomorphology in central Australia Journal of Arid Environments 49 653 669 CrossRef Google Scholar Walker, K. F., Sheldon, F., Puckridge, J. T. 1995 A perspective on dryland river ecosystems Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 11 85 104 Google Scholar Walker, K. F., Puckridge, J. T., Blanch, S. J. 1997 Irrigation development on Cooper Creek, central Australia – prospects for a regulated economy in a boom-and-bust ecology Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 7 63 73 CrossRef Google Scholar Williams, W. D. 1980Australian Freshwater Life Globe Press Melbourne 321 Google Scholar Williams, W. D. 1988 Limnological imbalances: an antipodean viewpoint Freshwater Biology 20 407 420 Google Scholar Whitford, W. G., Rapport, D. J., deSoyza, A. G. 1999 Using resistance and resilience measurements for ‘fitness’ tests in ecosystem health Journal of Environmental Management 57 21 29 CrossRef Google Scholar Wright, J. F. 1995 Development and use of a system for predicting the macroinvertebrate fauna in flowing waters Australian Journal of Ecology 20 181 197 Google Scholar