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A Ramsar wetland in crisis – the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, Australia

A Ramsar wetland in crisis – the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, Australia The state of global freshwater ecosystems is increasingly parlous with water resource development degrading high-conservation wetlands. Rehabilitation is challenging because necessary increases in environmental flows have concomitant social impacts, complicated because many rivers flow between jurisdictions or countries. Australia’s Murray–Darling Basin is a large river basin with such problems encapsulated in the crisis of its Ramsar-listed terminal wetland, the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth. Prolonged drought and upstream diversion of water dropped water levels in the Lakes below sea level (2009–2010), exposing hazardous acid sulfate soils. Salinities increased dramatically (e.g. South Lagoon of Coorong >200 g L –1 , cf. modelled natural 80 g L –1 ), reducing populations of waterbirds, fish, macroinvertebrates and littoral plants. Calcareous masses of estuarine tubeworms ( Ficopomatus enigmaticus ) killed freshwater turtles (Chelidae) and other fauna. Management primarily focussed on treating symptoms (e.g. acidification), rather than reduced flows, at considerable expense (>AU$2 billion). We modelled a scenario that increased annual flows during low-flow periods from current levels up to one-third of what the natural flow would have been, potentially delivering substantial environmental benefits and avoiding future crises. Realisation of this outcome depends on increasing environmental flows and implementing sophisticated river management during dry periods, both highly contentious options. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Marine & Freshwater Research CSIRO Publishing

A Ramsar wetland in crisis – the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, Australia

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References (37)

Publisher
CSIRO Publishing
Copyright
CSIRO
ISSN
1323-1650
eISSN
1323-1650
DOI
10.1071/MF09315
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The state of global freshwater ecosystems is increasingly parlous with water resource development degrading high-conservation wetlands. Rehabilitation is challenging because necessary increases in environmental flows have concomitant social impacts, complicated because many rivers flow between jurisdictions or countries. Australia’s Murray–Darling Basin is a large river basin with such problems encapsulated in the crisis of its Ramsar-listed terminal wetland, the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth. Prolonged drought and upstream diversion of water dropped water levels in the Lakes below sea level (2009–2010), exposing hazardous acid sulfate soils. Salinities increased dramatically (e.g. South Lagoon of Coorong >200 g L –1 , cf. modelled natural 80 g L –1 ), reducing populations of waterbirds, fish, macroinvertebrates and littoral plants. Calcareous masses of estuarine tubeworms ( Ficopomatus enigmaticus ) killed freshwater turtles (Chelidae) and other fauna. Management primarily focussed on treating symptoms (e.g. acidification), rather than reduced flows, at considerable expense (>AU$2 billion). We modelled a scenario that increased annual flows during low-flow periods from current levels up to one-third of what the natural flow would have been, potentially delivering substantial environmental benefits and avoiding future crises. Realisation of this outcome depends on increasing environmental flows and implementing sophisticated river management during dry periods, both highly contentious options.

Journal

Marine & Freshwater ResearchCSIRO Publishing

Published: Mar 18, 2011

Keywords: acid sulfate soils, bioremediation, decision-making, drought, ecosystem states, environmental flows, Murray–Darling Basin, over-allocation, rehabilitation, water resource development, weirs.

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