New research cluster aims to protect the Coorong
Tuesday, 29 August 2006
The world-famous and listed wetlands region, the Coorong, is the focus of a new multi-million dollar research partnership that aims to restore the ecological health of the region and protect threatened birds and fish.
Led by University of Adelaide researcher Dr Mike Geddes, the multidisciplinary research team will carry out a detailed study of the Coorong, the Lower Lakes and the Murray Mouth (CLLAMM) ecosystems in order to produce models to predict how future environmental management decisions may affect this vulnerable region.
Partners in the new research cluster (CLLAMMecology) are: the CSIRO, through its national research flagship the Water for a Healthy Country; the University of Adelaide; Flinders University; and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) Aquatic Sciences. The program will receive $2.2 million from the CSIRO Collaboration Fund, with a total investment of $5.3 million over three years.
"This will be the first comprehensive research program for this estuary," Dr Geddes said. "We will examine hydrology; aquatic, bird and fish ecology; and social sciences," Dr Geddes said.
"The research aims to improve the habitat of migratory birds, increase the numbers of estuarine fish and to protect the Coorong as an internationally recognised wetland which is suffering salinity problems."
Dr Geddes says that the Coorong, made world-famous in the movie Storm Boy, is recognised internationally as one of Australia's major wetlands and is listed in the international RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands.
"Despite this world-wide recognition, the Coorong is in a bad way," he said. "There's serious ecological degradation, and hyper-salinity is threatening various species of fish and birds. The Coorong is particularly significant for many species of migratory waterbirds."
Dr Geddes said the study aims to deliver a set of ecosystem-level models which can be used to evaluate alternative future scenarios within the larger Coorong region.
There will be four key research activities: documenting the responses of key species to changes in aquatic environments under different management regimes; examining the effects of increased water flows and whether these lead to increased productivity in the food-chain; investigating food-webs and exploring how energy is transferred across the whole ecosystem; and producing a dynamic model of the extent and quality of the habitat enabling researchers and water managers to predict the impact of changes in water flow.
A number of management agencies are supporting the development of the program, including the SA Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation, SA Department of Environment and Heritage, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, the Land and Water Australia and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.
Funding for the research was announced recently by the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, under the Flagship Collaboration Fund Cluster funding. The Fund is designed to facilitate the involvement of the wider Australian research community in addressing the critical national challenges targeted by the Flagships.
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