Jaye Lobegeiger

Jaye Lobegeiger

Jaye Lobegeiger, Australia

Jaye is a Senior Scientist in DSITI’s Water Planning Ecology group. For over a decade she has worked on ecohydrological research projects and ecological risk assessments that support State Government water planning. Her areas of expertise are the habitats and biota of dryland rivers, particularly in the northern Murray-Darling Basin and north and west Queensland, and ecological modelling.

Presentation Title: Use of a risk-based ecohydrological approach to inform sustainable water resource management: case study using floodplain turtles as indicators

Governments are responsible for the fair, productive and sustainable allocation of water resources. As well as providing for consumption, often water legislation and policy aim to protect or restore flow regimes to achieve ecological outcomes. The Queensland Government manages many water resource issues including expansion of agricultural production in northern Australia, cross-border management in the Murray-Darling Basin, and increasing groundwater utilisation. To sustainably manage water resources, planners require robust advice about the ecological consequences of management options that they can evaluate against socio-economic assessments. An approach to ecological assessment appropriate for Queensland legislation requires: a focus on ecological sustainability at appropriate spatial and temporal scales; isolation of flow-related impacts from additional stressors not managed by Queensland water plans; a causal framework that considers the way flow, geomorphology and habitat interact to elicit ecological responses; and reduced reliance on the natural flow paradigm to set targets, recognising that most systems are unlikely to return to an undeveloped state. Because existing e-flows approaches did not meet these requirements, we developed a new risk-based ecohydrological approach that identifies ecosystem values and uses representative indicators of broader ecosystem requirements that are sensitive to flow alteration. Monitoring and research are used to quantify flow dependencies, and ecological modelling simulates time series of flow-related ecological opportunities and responses. Relative risk from different flow management scenarios are evaluated at relevant spatial-scales. This presentation outlines our approach, illustrated by a case study using floodplain turtles (Chelodina oblonga) as indicators of the consequence of changed flood regimes in north Queensland. Identification of the specific aspects of flow that posed risk to the turtles, along with information about risks to migratory fish and prawn fisheries, allowed planners to assess trade-offs, target mitigation options and develop a water management strategy that lessened risks to the ecosystem.

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