Environmental monitoring protocols to assess potential impacts from Ranger minesite on aquatic ecosystems:Fish community structure in channel billabongs

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2011

Internal Report 590
Supervising Scientist Division

About the report

The Supervising Scientist Division (SSD) operates an integrated chemical (including radiological), physical and biological monitoring program to ensure protection of the aquatic ecosystems of the ARR from the operation of uranium mines in the region. This stream monitoring program is an independent assurance program, unlike the compliance and check water chemistry monitoring programs of the mining company (Ranger Mine, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd) and the NT government regulator respectively (DoR, Department of Resources).

The techniques and 'indicators' used in the monitoring program satisfy two important needs of environmental protection: (i) the early detection of significant changes in measured indicators to avoid short or longer term ecologically important impacts; and (ii) assessing ecological or ecosystem-level effects by way of measured changes to surrogate indicators of biodiversity.

SSD has prepared protocols for the measurement programs required to implement each of these monitoring techniques. For each technique, two types of protocols have been prepared, high-level protocols and detailed operational manuals. This document is the high-level protocol, describing the science underpinning one of the ecosystem-level techniques, namely use fish community structure in channel billabong monitoring.

This protocol for the structure of fish community monitoring technique provides an overview of the monitoring principles and objectives, experimental and statistical design, test, data analysis and impact assessment procedures and reporting requirements.


This document details the experimental design and data interpretation methods used to monitor fish community structure in channel billabongs near the Ranger Mine. The monitoring of fish in these billabong environments is a component of the multiple lines of evidence monitoring program implemented by the Supervising Scientist Division (van Dam et al 2002, Jones et al 2009).

Full details of methods and procedures described in this protocol are contained in a corresponding 'Operational manual' which is the working document used by monitoring staff at the Jabiru Field Station to conduct environmental document procedures. The additional material that the Operational manual contains (that is not contained in this published document) includes:

  • photographs and maps of the location of sample transects
  • fish identification photographs and summary information on key references and supporting studies
  • instructions on use of meters and other instrumentation
  • data-sheet pro-forma for collection of field data
  • data codes for fish and environmental variables
  • worked examples of statistical procedures
  • a list of all required reports.

Contact officers: Chris Humphrey & Duncan Buckle