The Flinders, Gilbert and Mitchell Rivers flow into the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, supporting healthy ecosystems and nationally significant wetlands as well as important recreational and commercial fisheries. With increasing interest in developing water resources in northern Australia, further information is needed to understand how such developments will impact on the health and productivity of floodplains and coastal areas. Specifically, we need to know which flow characteristics of the rivers earmarked for future development are most important for the region’s plants and animals so we can make informed management decisions.
This study is helping us to better understand the downstream impacts of water resource development in Gulf of Carpentaria catchments. Information from the study is enabling State and Federal Government decision makers to identify which flows make the biggest contributions to aquatic production, wetland and coastal ecosystems, and biodiversity within the Gulf. The research is helping to inform future water allocation and improving our ability to ensure that development in the region is environmentally sustainable.
Field work is beingwi undertaken in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, specifically in the rivers and catchments indicated for possible development, i.e. the Mitchell, Flinders and Gilbert Rivers. The estuaries and coastal areas of these major rivers are the focus of field work.
Additional research using remote sensing is being undertaken in selected sites in the southern Gulf to determine ‘hotspots’ of primary production.
Did you know Gulf of Carpentaria coasts are critically important habitat for migratory shorebirds? These birds fly to Australia from as far away as Alaska every year, and rely on the worms, crabs, clams and other food of the Gulf mudflats and sandflats to fatten up for their journey. This collaboration between Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Griffith University is showing just how important the Gulf is for these long-distance fliers.
Flows from rivers into the Gulf of Carpentaria contain nutrients that support the growth and reproduction of important fisheries species like banana prawns and barramundi. This project investigated the importance of three rivers – the Mitchell, Flinders and Gilbert – to Gulf fisheries.
Broadley, A., Stewart-Koster, B., Kenyon, R. A., Burford, M. A., & Brown, C. J. (2020). Impact of water development on river flows and the catch of a commercial marine fishery. Ecosphere 11( 7):e03194. 10.1002/ecs2.3194
Ndehedehe, C.E., Stewart-Koster, B., Burford, M.A., & Bunn, S.E. (2020). Predicting hot spots of aquatic plant biomass in a large floodplain river catchment in the Australian wet-dry tropics. Ecological Indicators. Volume 117, 106616. ISSN 1470-160X. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.106616.
Ndehedehe, C.E., Burford, M.A., Stewart-Koster, B., Stuart E. Bunn. 2020. Satellite-derived changes in floodplain productivity and freshwater habitats in northern Australia (1991–2019), Ecological Indicators, Volume 114, 106320, ISSN 1470-160X.
Martin Kainz presents how fatty acids can be used as biomarkers in analysing food webs and trophic flow.
Mike Venarsky presents at the December 2018 DES (Qld) Workshop about the community-level migration patterns of fish in the Mitchell River and some of its tributaries.
David Crook discusses how otolith chemistry can help explain and document fish life history.
Glenn McGregor presents on how environmental assessments contribute to the evaluation of Water Plans in Queensland at a DES Workshop from December 2018.
Jonathan Marshall explains how paleo-ecological tracers can help understand past ecosystem variability to predict and manage now and into the future.
The project leaders are being assisted by researchers from Griffith University, CSIRO, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Charles Darwin University and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources.
This project is due for completion in June 2021.
Michele Burford, Griffith University
(07) 3735 6723