ECOLOGICAL SERVICES
overview

Water Technology ecologists have extensive technical and practical expertise in flora, fauna and ecosystem assessment and management.

Staff have strong regional industry relationships and work closely with clients to develop applied and practical ecological solutions to issues of water and land management.

This expertise provides public and private sector clients with reliable and technically sound reporting.

Capabilities
  • Flora, fauna and significant tree inventory wand survey
  • Flora, fauna and habitat assessment and management
  • Assessment of ecological significance and threat status
  • Vegetation management plans (VMPs) - Environmental Risk Assessments & Management Plans
  • Revegetation and ecosystem restoration
  • Detailed vegetation survey
  • Waterway and wetland condition assessment
  • Waterway habitat assessment
  • Riparian crown land assessment and managemen
Client:
In collaboration with: University of Melbourne & University of Western Australia
location:
Gippsland Lakes, VIC

Ecological and water quality experts from Water Technology and Monash University joined forces to assess the water quality and ecological processes of the Gippsland Lakes.

The Lakes have suffered recurrent summer toxic blooms of cyanobacterium Nodularia spumigena since 1985. Diatoms and dinoflagellates also commonly form blooms in the Lakes. Nodularia has the ability fix free nitrogen and is typically found during periods of low freshwater inflows in brackish waters near the inflowing rivers. Growth of Nodularia is controlled by a combination of biological, chemical and physical drivers which are impossible to simultaneously assess through physical experiments.

Whilst the key drivers of the growth of Nodularia (intermediate salinity, stratification, bottom water hypoxia and sediment phosphorus release) are well understood, there was a lack of quantitative tools to predict bloom formation and assess management options to mitigate them.

A 3-D fully coupled hydrodynamic biological ecological model was used to explore the interaction between the physical and biogeochemical controls over Nodularia blooms. The hydrodynamic model included turbulent mixing within the water column, whilst the ecological component of the model contained over 40 state variables and 200+ processes, parameterised by 176 constants to describe the biological/ecological and chemical reactions occurring in the water column and sediment compartments.

Client:
Murray Catchment Management Authority (MyCMA)
location:
Riverina, NSW

The Murray CMA needed to understand the condition of riparian vegetation for the Yanco, Colombo and Billabong Creeks to assist with identifying investment priorities for the system in the future. Water Technology and the Murray CMA developed a method for assessing the riparian condition, vegetation composition, potential threats and condition trajectory.

A limited budget allowed only 20 days to field assess 1,000km of creek network vegetation and hence we had to develop a method that was:
• Rapid enough to allow a ‘reasonable’ sample size
• Repeatable (method able to be applied by trained CMA/LLS staff and well documented)
• Useful in meeting the project aims
• Capable of assessing the key vegetation condition attributes
• Able to inform investment direction.

A range of condition assessment parameters were mapped and graphed by reach including Habitat Quality, Riparian and Instream Health, Canopy Health, Weed cover and Condition Trajectory. More than 1200 photos were taken across the project area and these were provided digitally in a GIS hotlinked project file. This allows the viewing of photographs across the project area at the click of a mouse on a map.
The final report provided a baseline condition assessment of riparian vegetation across the project area and included recommendations for future work to maintain or enhance that condition.

Client:
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (previously DEPI, DSE)
location:
Victoria

Water Technology has been involved in two major State wide projects assessing the condition of waterways and wetlands across Victoria for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). These projects provide a State wide snapshot of condition to determine the progress made towards condition targets and to assist in the setting of priorities for action to improve or protect these natural assets. These projects have also been driven by Regional, State, National and International reporting obligations.

Victorian State Wide Rivers LiDAR Project
DSE recently developed a method to assess components of the Index of Stream Condition (ISC) using LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) in conjunction with aerial imagery. Water Technology was commissioned to provide the ground validation assessment of remotely derived riparian vegetation and physical form ISC condition metrics. This involved detailed field assessment and analysis of 200 validation sites across the 26,000km of Victoria’s ISC stream network.

State Wide Index of Wetland Condition (IWC)
More than 350 wetlands were assessed by Water Technology staff across the State in collaboration with the relevant Catchment Management Authorities. All field assessment data, mapping and photographs were collated and entered into the online IWC Data Management System (IWCDMS). This important project has provided the first State wide ‘baseline’ condition assessment of wetlands across Victoria.

Client:
NORTH EAST CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (VICTORIA)
location:
CENTRAL VICTORIA

The Ovens River floodplain is one of the many within the Murray-Darling Basin that has been subject to anthropogenic changes, negatively impacting on the condition of floodplain and wetland environmental assets. The lower Ovens River and its floodplain wetlands are in much better condition than many other rivers in the basin due to the absence of major water storages and extractions from the upper catchment, with less impact on the magnitude, frequency and duration of flooding. However it still has a number of issues to manage; namely vegetation clearance, pest species, the operation of the Murray River and backwatering from Lake Mulwala, and the construction of levees, channel banks and roads, some of which have disconnected wetlands from the river.

The Lower Ovens Connectivity Study was a landmark project which integrated complex floodplain hydraulics, catchment hydrology, advanced spatial analysis, ecological assessments and environmental outcomes. Detailed 1D/2D hydrodynamic models were used to understand the flood behaviour across the floodplain at a range of different magnitude flow events. Extensive condition assessments of the significant ecological assets within the floodplain were also conducted. The study identified and mapped over 380 potential barriers to flow and produced a number of highly valuable datasets which relate areas such as wetland connectivity, frequency of wetland inundation and ecological condition that could serve as a benchmark for floodplain managers across the Murray-Darling Basin. The knowledge gained from the study was incorporated into a geodatabase that linked flood behaviour to connectivity and ecological assets within the floodplain.

The study concluded that much of the lower Ovens floodplain is in excellent condition and that there are few barriers which significantly reduce wetland connectivity, with 90% of the wetlands found to be inundated on average at least every two years. The approach developed in this study could easily be applied to other river systems across the country to improve understanding of the ecological condition and connectivity of floodplains and improve management of key environmental assets. The study has developed a number of tools that will significantly expand the North East CMA’s capacity to engage key stakeholders in identifying options for improving the management of unregulated flows to key environmental assets through the design and management of environmental infrastructure.

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