Stakeholder Participation in Freshwater Monitoring and Evaluation Programs: Applying Thresholds of Potential Concern within Environmental Flows

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Abstract

The complex nature of freshwater systems provides challenges for incorporating evidence-based techniques into management. This paper investigates the potential of participatory evidence-based techniques to involve local stakeholders and make decisions based on different “knowledge” sources within adaptive management programs. It focuses on the application of thresholds of potential concern (TPC) within strategic adaptive management (SAM) for facilitating inclusive decision-making. The study is based on the case of the Edward-Wakool (E-W) “Fish and Flows” SAM project in the Murray–Darling River Basin, Australia. We demonstrate the application of TPCs for improving collaborative decision-making within the E-W, associated with environmental watering requirements, and other natural resource management programs such as fish stocking. The development of TPCs in the E-W fish and flows SAM project helped improve stakeholder involvement and understanding of the system, and also the effectiveness of the implemented management interventions. TPCs ultimately helped inform environmental flow management activities. The TPC process complemented monitoring that was already occurring in the system and provided a mechanism for linking formal and informal knowledge to form explicit and measurable endpoints from objectives. The TPC process faced challenges due to the perceived reduction in scientific rigor within initial TPC development and use. However, TPCs must remain tangible to managers and other stakeholders, in order to aid in the implementation of adaptive management. Once accepted by stakeholders, over time TPCs should be reviewed and refined in order to increase their scientific rigor, as new information is generated.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for the E-W Fish and Flows SAM project was provided by the Murray Catchment Management Authority (now Murray Local Land Services) through Australian Commonwealth government funding source ‘Caring for our Country. Commonwealth and state government departments, freshwater fish scientists and community groups contributed to the development of the TPCs, and the discussions around their use. Several Commonwealth (primarily Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and Commonwealth Environmental Water Office), and state based government organizations (primarily NSW Department of Primary Industries, and office of Environment and Heritage) contributed to the generation of the data within this study.

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Conallin, J., McLoughlin, C.A., Campbell, J. et al. Stakeholder Participation in Freshwater Monitoring and Evaluation Programs: Applying Thresholds of Potential Concern within Environmental Flows. Environmental Management 61, 408–420 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0940-2

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Keywords

  • Stakeholder participation
  • Environmental flows
  • Thresholds of potential concern
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Formal knowledge
  • Adaptive management