, Volume 552, Issue 1, pp 17–31 | Cite as

Temporal Changes between Ecological Regimes in a Range of Primary and Secondary Salinised Wetlands

  • Karin Strehlow
  • Jenny Davis
  • Lien Sim
  • Jane Chambers
  • Stuart Halse
  • David Hamilton
  • Pierre Horwitz
  • Arthur McComb
  • Ray Froend


Many rivers and wetlands in south-western Australia are threatened by salinisation due to rising saline watertables, which have resulted from land clearing and the replacement of deep-rooted perennial species with shallow-rooted annual species. A four to six weekly sampling program of water quality, submerged macrophytes and macroinvertebrates was undertaken at six wetlands, from September 2002 to February 2004, to investigate seasonal variation in a range of primary and secondary saline systems. The wetlands dried and filled at different times in response to local rainfall patterns, and salinities varied accordingly with evapoconcentration and dilution. Two types of clear-water wetlands were recognised; those dominated by submerged aquatic macrophytes (Ruppia, Lepilaena and Lamprothamnium) and those dominated by benthic microbial communities. Two types of turbid wetlands were also recognised; those with high concentrations of phytoplankton and those with high concentrations of suspended sediments. A primary saline lake and two lakes that have only recently been affected by secondary salinisation persisted in a clear, macrophyte-dominated regime throughout most of the study period, except during drying and filling. Two lakes with a long history of secondary salinisation (70 years) moved between regimes over the study period. A clear, benthic microbial community – dominated regime only persisted at the wetland which contained permanent water throughout the study period. The turbid regimes were only present during drying and refilling phases. A richer and more abundant macroinvertebrate fauna was associated with the clear, macrophyte- dominated wetlands. Our results suggest that the development of management guidelines that recognise the presence of different ecological regimes and that consider the interactions between water regime, salinity, and primary and secondary production will be more useful in protecting biodiversity and ecological function in these systems than managing salinity as a single factor.


salinisation submerged macrophytes macroinvertebrates alternative stable states ecological regimes Western Australia 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ), 2001. Australia and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality.
  2. Bateson, J. K., 2001. Alternative Community States in Reservoirs of the Central Highlands Region. Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne. Melbourne, Australia.Google Scholar
  3. Bayly, I. A. E., Williams, W. D. 1973Inland Waters and Their EcologyLongman MelbourneAustraliaGoogle Scholar
  4. Beard, J. S. 1981Vegetation Survey of Western Australia, Swan, Explanatory Notes to Sheet 7University of Western Australia PressPerthGoogle Scholar
  5. Beisner, B. E., Haydon, D.T., Cuddington, K. 2003Alternative stable states in ecologyFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment1376382Google Scholar
  6. Brock, M. A. 1981The ecology of halophytes in the south-east of South AustraliaHydrobiologia812332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brock, M. A., Lane, J. 1983The aquatic macrophyte flora of saline wetlands in W.A. in relation to salinity and permanenceHydrobiologia1056376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brock, M. A., Nielsen, D. L., Shiel, R. J., Green, J. D., Langley, J. D. 2003Drought and aquatic community resilience: the role of eggs and seeds in sediments of temporary wetlandsFreshwater Biology4812071218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clarke, K. R., Gorley, R. N. 2001Primer v5 :User Manual/TutorialPRIMER-E LtdPlymouth, UKGoogle Scholar
  10. Clesceri, L. S., A. E. Greenberg & A. D. Eaton, (eds), 1998. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (20th edn). American Public Health Association, Wisconsin, USA.Google Scholar
  11. Cummins, K. W., Klug, M. J. 1979Feeding ecology of stream invertebratesAnnual Review of Ecology and Systematics10147172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis, J. A., McGuire, M., Halse, S. A., Hamilton, D., Horwitz, P., McComb, A. J., Froend, R., Lyons, M., Sim, L. 2003What happens when you add salt: predicting impacts of secondary salinisation on shallow aquatic ecosystems using an alternative states modelAustralian Journal of Botany51715724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis J. A., R. S. Rosich, J. S. Bradley, J. E. Growns, L. G. Schmidt & F. Cheal, 1993. Wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain (Vol. 6). Wetland Classification on the Basis of Water Quality and Invertebrate Community Data. Water Authority of Western Australia and WA Environmental Protection Authority, Perth, 242 pp.Google Scholar
  14. George, R. J., McFarlane, D. J., Nulsen, R. A. 1997Salinity threatens the viability of agriculture and ecosystems in Western AustraliaHydrogeology Journal5621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Halse, S. A. 1981Faunal assemblages of some saline lakes near Marchagee, Western AustraliaAustralian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research32133142Google Scholar
  16. Halse, S. A., Williams, M. R., Jaensch, R. P., Lane, K. J. A. 1993Wetland characteristics and waterbird use of wetlands in south-western AustraliaWildlife Research20103126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Halse, S. A., Shiel, R. J., Williams, W. D. 1998Aquatic invertebrates of Lake Gregory, northwestern Australia, in relation to salinity and ionic compositionHydrobiologia3811529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hart, B. T., Bailey, P., Edwards, R., Hortle, K., James, K., McMahon, A., Meredith, C., Swadling, K. 1991A review of the salt sensitivity of the Australian freshwater biotaHydrobiologia21011031117Google Scholar
  19. Hatton, T. J., Ruprecht, J., George, R. J. 2003Preclearing hydrology of the Western Australia wheatbelt: target for the future?Plant and Soil257341356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heino, J. 2000Lentic macroinvertebrate assemblage structure along gradients in spatial heterogeneity, habitat size and water chemistryHydrobiologia418229242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Herbst, D. B. 2001Gradients of salinity stress, environmental stability and water chemistry as a template for defining habitat types and physiological strategies in inland salt watersHydrobiologia466209219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hillman, T. J., Quinn, G. P. 2002Temporal changes in macroinvertebrate assemblages following experimental flooding in permanent and temporary wetlands in an Australian floodplain forestRiver Research and Applications18137154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jeppesen, E., Peder-Jensen, J., Sondergaard, M., Lauridsen, T. 1999Trophic dynamics in turbid and clearwater lakes with special emphasis on the role of zooplankton for water clarityHydrobiologia408/409217231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Knowlton, N. 1992Thresholds and multiple stable states in coral reef community dynamicsAmerican Zoologist32674682Google Scholar
  25. Lane, J. A. K.Munro, D. R. eds. 1983Review of Rainfall and Wetlands in the South-West of Western AustraliaDepartment of Fisheries and WildlifePerth58Google Scholar
  26. May, R. M. 1977Thresholds and breakpoints in ecosystems with a multiplicity of stable statesNature269471477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moss, B., Stansfield, J., Irvine, K., Perrow, M., Phillips, G. 1996Progressive restoration of a shallow lake: a 12 year experiment in isolation, sediment removal and biomanipulationJournal of Applied Ecology28586602Google Scholar
  28. Naselli-Flores, L., Barone, R. 1997Importance of water level fluctuation on population dynamics of cladocerans in a hypertrophic reservoir (Lake Arancio, south-west Sicily, Italy)Hydrobiologia360223232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nielsen, D. L., Brock, M. A., Rees, G. N., Baldwin, D. S. 2003aEffects of increasing salinity on freshwater ecosystems in AustraliaAustralian Journal of Botany51655665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nielsen, D. L., Brock, M. A., Crossle, K., Harris, K., Healey, M., Jarosinski, I. 2003bThe effects of salinity on aquatic plant germination and zooplankton hatching from two wetland sedimentsFreshwater Biology4822142223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nilsson, A. N., Elmberg, J., Sjöberg, K. 1994Abundance and species richness patterns of diving beetles (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae) in Swedish LakesJournal of Biogeography21197206Google Scholar
  32. Nilsson, A. N., Söderberg, H. 1996Abundance and distribution patterns of diving beetles (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae) from exposed and protected sites in 98 northern Swedish lakesHydrobiologia3218388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pinder, A. M., Halse, S. A., Shiel, R. J., Cale, D. J., McRae, J. M. 2002Halophilic aquatic invertebrates in the wheatbelt region of south-western Australia Verhandlungeng Internationale VereinigungLimnologie2816871694Google Scholar
  34. Rietkerk, M., Koppel, J. 1997Alternate stable states and threshold effects in semi-arid grazing systemsOikos796976Google Scholar
  35. Sall, J., Lehman, A., Creighton, L., Sall, J., Lehman, A., Creighton, L. 2001JMP Start Statistics. A Guide to Statistics and Data AnalysisSAS Institute Inc.Duxbury, USAGoogle Scholar
  36. Scheffer, M. 1989Alternative stable states in eutrophic, shallow freshwater systems: a minimal modelHydrological Bulletin237383Google Scholar
  37. Scheffer, M. 1998Ecology of Shallow LakesChapman and HallLondonGoogle Scholar
  38. Scheffer, M., Hosper, S. H., Meijer, M. L., Moss, B., Jeppesen, E. 1993Alternative equilibria in shallow lakesTrends in Ecology and Evolution8275279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S. R. 2003Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: linking theory to observationTrends in Ecology and Evolution18648656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S. R., Foley, C., Folkes, B., Walker, B. 2001Catastrophic shifts in ecosystemsNature413591596CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Schofield, N. J., J. K. Ruprecht & I. C. Loh, 1988. The impact of agricultural development on the salinity of surface water resources of south-west Western Australia. Report WS27. Water Authority of Western Australia, Perth.Google Scholar
  42. Timms, B. V. 1998Further studies on the saline lakes of the eastern Paroo, inland New South Wales, AustraliaHydrobiologia3813142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Timms, R. M., Moss, B. 1984Prevention of growth of potentially dense phytoplankton populations by zooplankton grazing, in the presence of zooplanktivorous fish, in a shallow wetland ecosystemLimnology and Oceanography29472486Google Scholar
  44. Berg, M. S., Scheffer, M., Nes, E., Coops, H. 1999Dynamics and stability of Chara sp. and Potamogeton pectinatus in a shallow lake changing in eutrophication levelHydrobiologia408/409335342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Berg, M. S., Joosse, W., Coops, H. 2003A statistical model predicting the occurrence and dynamics of submerged macrophytes in shallow lakes in the NetherlandsHydrobiologia506–509611623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Viney, N. R., Sivapalan, M. 2001Modelling catchment processes in the Swan-Avon River basinHydrological Processes1526712685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wood, W. E. 1924Increase of salt in soils and streams following the destruction of native vegetationJournal of the Royal Society of Western Australia103547Google Scholar
  48. Yates, C. J., Hobbs, R. J. 1997Woodland restoration in the Western Australian wheatbelt: a conceptual framework using a state and transition modelRestoration Ecology52835CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karin Strehlow
    • 1
  • Jenny Davis
    • 1
  • Lien Sim
    • 1
  • Jane Chambers
    • 1
  • Stuart Halse
    • 2
  • David Hamilton
    • 3
  • Pierre Horwitz
    • 4
  • Arthur McComb
    • 1
  • Ray Froend
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Environmental ScienceMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Conservation and Land ManagementWannerooAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  4. 4.Centre for Ecosystem ManagementEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia

Personalised recommendations