Thomas Espinoza

Thomas Espinoza

Tom Espinoza has been employed by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy since 2005 working primarily as an aquatic ecologist with added exposure to most facets of the water industry. Environmental flow research and its incorporation into water management has been a key focus including work on golden perch, Australian lungfish and Mary River cod in the Fitzroy, Burnett and Mary catchments respectively. Environmental flows for estuaries and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems are a future focus together with ongoing ecological assessment of water legislation.

Environmental Flows and Adaptive Management: A Case-Study of a Critically-Endangered Freshwater Turtle and a Regulated Impoundment

The critically-endangered white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) has been prioritised for research and monitoring in the Burnett River, Queensland, Australia since 2007. Preliminary work published in 2013 highlighted risks to nesting of this species from water management in the lower catchment. The science revealed that E. albagula nest in response to water level at the time of nesting; and water level fluctuations within the Ben Anderson Barrage could inundate a significant proportion of turtle nests, causing clutch failure. Additional assessment highlighted changes to operating levels of the barrage could significantly reduce rates of inundation. As such, a new environmental flow strategy and operational rules relating to hydraulic habitat for nesting turtles was enacted in the second generation 2014 Burnett water plan. Confirmation monitoring is follow-up work undertaken by the department to ground-truth the effectiveness of new environmental management rules in water plans. In 2018, confirmation monitoring demonstrated nest inundation for white-throated snapping turtle to be considerably reduced in contrast to the previous management regime. Results will highlight the success of the rule not only for the turtle, but for other ecological outcomes, ecological assets, water users and infrastructure operators. This presentation demonstrates a successful example of bridging the ‘science to policy’ gap and using adaptive management to improve the resilience of our aquatic ecosystems.

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