01 Nov Nicole Flint
Dr Nicole Flint is a Research Fellow at CQUniversity and the Science Leader for the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health. Nicole’s research focuses on improving monitoring, assessment and management of aquatic environments, particularly through the development of effective environmental indicators for diverse regional waterways.
Biological indicators have long been used in waterway monitoring programs as living water quality gauges, accounting for multiple cumulative and even synergistic impacts. Since the early 1900s scientists have sampled, counted and tested fish, invertebrates, amphibians and aquatic plants to better understand waterway condition. During the 1990s there were renewed calls for biological assessments of river ‘health’ in water quality guidelines. However, despite their obvious relevance to monitoring programs, there are challenges associated with using biological indicators.
While well reported in both the national and international literature, some of these challenges have again become apparent in regional Queensland. As the environmental impacts of historical and current land uses accrue, decision makers and the public have demanded scientifically robust assessments of waterway condition and an innovation communication solution has arisen in the form of regional report cards. The specific objectives of individual report cards may vary, but generally aim to communicate relative environmental performance, and facilitate the conversion of ecological indicators into a management tool.
Environmental reporting should be adaptive, scientifically current, linked to clear objectives, responsive to changing values and capable of guiding management actions and interventions. Biological indicators can help to meet these aims. Despite this, report cards in data poor regional areas may experience difficulties incorporating biological indicators in a robust and regionally relevant way.
This presentation will use case study examples to explore the value of biological indicators, the specific requirements associated with their use in report cards, challenges for their application in rural and regional areas, and some considerations to help improve their relevance as indicators of river and estuary condition. While there are a range of complexities associated with developing and monitoring biological indicators, they provide a much more comprehensive picture of ecosystem status than can be gleaned from physicochemical indicators alone.