Paula D’Santos

Paula D’Santos

Paula D’Santos, Australia

Paula has been working as an environmental water manager for the past 17 years.  She currently works for NSW Office of Environment and Heritage as a Senior Team Leader for the South-west Environmental Water and Floodplain unit which is responsible for environmental water management across southern NSW. Her career in environmental water management started with the NSW Murray Wetlands Working Group, and was part of the 2007 National Thiess Riverprize winning project team.  Paula was one of the first managers to deliver environmental water to private wetlands using portable irrigation infrastructure, identify the significance of acid sulphate soil issues in an inland wetland system and has been involved in numerous wetland / environmental watering projects across the NSW southern connected basin.  Paula’s interest lies in intervalley-scale flows, moving towards true basin-scale connectivity and developing partnerships with local communities.

Presentation Title: Let it Flow – how environmental water can provide native fish benefits

Timing is everything and monitoring is key.  An environmental flow event conducted in 2016 within the Lower Darling River, south-western NSW Australia, is an example of when good outcomes can be achieved when you get the timing right and are able to monitor the response. Following the reinstatement of flows into the Lower Darling River, triggered by upstream flood flows, environmental water managers teamed up with local fish ecologists to devise an environmental flow event that would provide suitable conditions to maximize spawning of native fish, especially Murray cod. The lower Darling River supports a robust Murray cod population.  Following three years of low to no flow conditions, opportunities to spawn and successfully recruit had been severely limited.  The implementation of an environmental flow event provided suitable flow heights and duration to support spawning in Murray cod.  Responding to chemical cues in the flow the Murray cod spawned in very high numbers surpassing expectations of the project team. Opportunistic monitoring upstream of the Menindee Lakes as part of the project also detected a large spawning event of golden perch in response to flood flows.  The juvenile fish drifted into the lakes which played a critical role as nursery habitats.   This information then informed environmental flow releases in the Lower Darling and the Darling Anabranch to provide connecting dispersal pathways for migration of golden perch from the lakes into the Murray River system. The event has demonstrated the power of monitoring results informing real-time management decisions, a happy marriage between science and management.  It has also contributed to inter-seasonal planning for subsequent flows, inspired intervalley-scale connection/dispersal flows and addressed some key knowledge gaps that will assist in improving flow management for native fish populations across the southern connected Murray Darling Basin.

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