Oral Presentation 9th Australian Stream Management Conference 2018

Lifting our gaze: improved environmental water management requires a landscape-scale approach (#23)

Andrew K Sharpe 1
  1. Victorian Environmental Water Holder, East Melbourne, VICTORIA, Australia

Environmental water management and the scientific monitoring and research projects that inform it have historically focussed on individual river reaches and individual wetlands. This approach presents two problems:

  1. There is no clear ecological basis for deciding which of the myriad of waterways with different permutations and combinations of environmental objectives have the most legitimate claim to environmental water in any given year.
  2. Many of the environmental objectives that waterway managers want to achieve are underpinned by ecological processes that operate at a landscape scale. Applying the perfect water regime to an individual waterway will probably not achieve the intended outcome unless the waterways and floodplains to which it is connected also have suitable flow regimes and complementary management actions.

Rather than asking what we can achieve with environmental water at a favourite waterway, we should ask what are the fundamental ecological processes that underpin waterway health across our landscapes and which waterways need environmental water and other management interventions to support those processes. The task is not simple and involves all of us.  Researchers need to shift their focus to landscape scale processes and use the results of site based studies to build landscape scale ecological models.  NRM agencies and environmental water holders need to co-ordinate efforts to ensure environmental water and other management tools are delivered where, when and in ways that they are most needed across the landscape. 

This presentation aims to trigger thought, discussion and debate about these issues to influence future research agendas and management frameworks.

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