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Interim Classification of Aquatic Ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin

Peter Cottingham and Associates, 2014

About the document

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and Murray-Darling Basin Authority have jointly developed an interim (i.e. point in time) classification and typology of aquatic ecosystems across Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin by adopting the Australian National Aquatic Ecosystems (ANAE) Classification Framework.  The ANAE approach was developed by the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to establish for the first time a consistent and systematic method of classifying aquatic ecosystems across the Australian landscape. The ANAE Framework enables jurisdictional classifications to be translated into a standardised national nomenclature to facilitate communication and understanding across jurisdictional boundaries. More information on the ANAE Framework and Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit is available at: Aquatic ecosystems

Informed by an advisory group with representatives from Murray-Darling Basin states and the scientific community, the project involved compiling mapping of over 250,000 aquatic ecosystem features in the Murray-Darling Basin, along with associated environmental attribute data, into a single geodatabase. The ANAE classification and typology were applied, with aquatic ecosystem features assigned across almost one hundred lacustrine (lake), palustrine (wetland), estuarine, riverine and floodplain types.  The results will be subject to update and review as required.

The final report provided above includes:

  • details of the method used to undertake the classification and typology
  • recommendations on priority areas for future investment in mapping and data collection required to further develop the classification.

The classification can inform a range of environmental water management applications, such as planning, prioritisation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting. The classification can also assist in analysis such as the representativeness of environmental watering in terms of ecosystem types watered, for adaptive management purposes.

Data is available for download from the Department of the Environment’s Find Environmental Data web site.


The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and Murray-Darling Basin Authority presented a poster on the classification project and its potential applications at the 2014 International River Symposium.

Classifying Aquatic Ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin (PDF - 1.8 MB)