Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment - Ecological program

The geographical area considered by the Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment (the assessment) included a large proportion of Australia's intact rivers and wetlands, rainforests, eucalypt savannas and native grasslands. The objectives of the assessment's Ecological program were to:

  • understand the key water-dependent ecological assets across northern Australia and identify those assets of high ecological value
  • identify ecological assets most at risk from hydrological changes which might occur as a result of climate change, future development or other factors.
Yellow Water Lagoon in Kakadu National Park, NT. John Baker and the Department

Yellow Water Lagoon in Kakadu National Park, NT.

John Baker and Department of the Environment

For those assets nominated by the northern jurisdictions for further assessment, the Ecological program:

  • described the surface and groundwater regimes and ecological processes
  • assessed the likely impacts (including cumulative) of possible development and climate change on the ecological assets using, where relevant, information from the Water Resources program and other water planning processes and scenarios
  • identified thresholds of ecological concern for these assets and, where relevant, a framework for monitoring and reporting change against those thresholds.

The outputs from the Ecological program may be used to inform future decisions regarding the development of water resources in northern Australia. The outcomes of this program will also inform broader natural resource management issues in the north.

Ecological Program Projects

Ecological assets of northern Australia: scoping, synthesis and prioritisation study

Sinclair Knight Merz undertook a preliminary study to review existing ecological research initiatives and water planning processes across northern Australia and identify and classify key ecological assets and asset types across northern Australia.

Northern Australia aquatic ecological assets project

Led by Griffith University through the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) hub this project involved assessing aquatic ecological assets across northern Australia, evaluating these ecological assets against draft criteria for identifying High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems,1 providing an assessment of risks to these assets and identifying thresholds of ecological change for management purposes. The project produced the following interim report, final report and fact sheet:

Assessing the likely impacts of development on Aquatic Ecological Assets in northern Australia

Led by the University of Western Australia in collaboration with researchers from a variety of universities and research organisations, the project findings will improve our understanding of water-dependent ecological assets across northern Australia and the risks to those assets arising from hydrologic changes due to water resource development or climate change. The research team undertook a detailed analysis of a range of likely high-priority, at-risk ecological assets and asset types. The project outcomes will be used to inform land and water use planning, catchment level water planning and local decision-making.

Contact us

For further queries, email northern.assessment@environment.gov.au or phone 1800 218 478.

See also

1In October 2010 the Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group agreed to change the name from 'High Conservation Value Aquatic Ecosystem' to the 'High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems'.