Integration of data for inventory and assessment of Australia's northern rivers

Supervising Scientist Division / Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, 2005

SSC 2005 Spatial Intelligence Innovation and Praxis: The National Biennial Conference of the Spatial Sciences Institute, Melbourne
John Lowry, Renee Bartolo and Mirjam Alewijnse
ISBN 0-9581366-2-9


Australia's tropical rivers and wetlands face renewed interest and pressures from multiple sources. Sustainable management of Australia's tropical rivers and wetlands requires an integrated information base for assessment of their ecological character (including benchmarking their status) and the development of policy, especially for environmental flows and potential uses of water. An information base is being established for assessing change, undertaking ecological risk assessments of major pressures, supporting local and indigenous management, and strengthening holistic approaches for managing tropical rivers/wetlands at multiple scales eg regional, catchment or individual habitat.

In this paper, we describe the spatial component of a project being conducted under Land & Water Australia's Tropical Rivers Program, which aims to better inform natural resource managers and decision-makers about the status of rivers in northern Australia. The specific project under the Tropical Rivers Program we are addressing is 'Australia's tropical rivers - an integrated data assessment and analysis'. This paper outlines the approach used to address sub-project 1, an inventory of the biological, chemical and physical features of aquatic ecosystems. The method undertaken was to implement a multiple-scale inventory of the habitats and biota of the rivers, floodplains and estuaries of northern Australia using information from a variety of sources. This has been achieved through a framework that was developed within Australia and has been subject to international critique and acceptance. This primary source of information for populating the framework was the integration of remote sensing imagery and GIS datasets at different scales (e.g. biogeographical, catchment and site scales) for mapping purposes. This information will be used to make an initial assessment of the diversity, status and ecological value of aquatic ecosystems across the region. Using this approach, the inventory data we have collected will be used to illustrate known areas of biodiversity importance and importantly, gaps in information.