Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 4: Aquatic Ecosystem Delineation and Description Guidelines
Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group for Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities, 2012
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Once a site of interest has been identified, the next phase is to delineate the site and describe its ecological character. The delineation of an aquatic ecosystem is the process of spatial identification, mapping and recording of the site; description documents the critical components and processes that underpin the ecosystem values of the site, and develops conceptual model(s) and identifies threats.
Module 4 can be applied to a high ecological value site, identified through either the application of the HEVAE criteria (Module 3) or a similar process. It also has been designed to be flexible and complementary to existing jurisdictional methods. This module builds on the concepts developed in Western Australia's Guideline for the Determination of Wetland Buffer Requirements 1, the Queensland Wetland Buffer Planning Guideline2 , and the National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Ramsar Wetlands3 .
Supporting case studies based on trials of the draft guidelines in the Lake Eyre Basin and Tasmania are used to provide additional guidance on implementing this module.
This module was developed concurrently with Module 3 Guidelines for Identifying High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems (HEVAE), and may be applied in conjunction with that module. Module 4 may also be a precursor to applying Module 5 The Integrated Ecological Condition Assessment Framework. Alternatively, it can be used independently, as a process on its own.
Delineation and description are treated together because much of the preliminary work is common to both processes. The main tasks to successfully delineate and describe aquatic ecosystems are to:
- identify the ecological values, and critical components and processes of the aquatic ecosystem, and confirm their existence through ground-truthing or more intensive desktop assessment
- identify and map core elements and ecological focal zones
- determine the geographical boundary of the aquatic ecosystem site
- develop conceptual model/s and identify threats.
Guidance on the full process of delineating and describing aquatic ecosystems is provided in Module 4, including a checklist for completing the workflow, and a record template for delineated and described sites.
1 Western Australian Planning Commission (2005). Guideline for the Determination of Wetland Buffer Requirements for Public Comment (Draft). Western Australian Planning Commission, Perth. (http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/dop_pub_pdf/Wetland_Text.pdf)
2 Department of Environment and Resource Management (2011). Queensland Wetland Buffer Planning Guideline. Queensland Wetlands Program, Brisbane.(http://wetlandinfo.derm.qld.gov.au/resources/static/pdf/buffer-guide/wetland-buffer-guideline-final-221111.pdf)
3 Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2008). National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australia's Ramsar Wetlands. Module 2 of the National Guidelines for Ramsar Wetlands–Implementing the Ramsar Convention in Australia. Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra.