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

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

Internal Report 589
Supervising Scientist Division

Executive summary

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 shallow lowland 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 shallow backflow billabongs around 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).

Full details of the operational methods and procedures described in this protocol are contained in the companion 'Operational manual' which is the working document used by staff running the monitoring activity. The additional material provided in the operational manual includes:

  • Photographs and maps of the location of sites and sample transects for current and historical sampling sites;
  • Fish identification photographs and summary information from key references and supporting studies;
  • Instructions on use of meters and other instrumentation;
  • Data-sheet pro-forma for recording of field data;
  • Data codes for fish and environmental variables;
  • Worked examples of statistical procedures;
  • Examples of all required reports.

Contact officers: Chris Humphrey & Duncan Buckle