Stream ecosystems as monitors of tropical forest catchments

Pearson, Richard, Butler, Barry, Nolen, Jacqui, Christidis, Faye, Connolly, Niall, Cairns, Andi, and Davis, Linda (1998) Stream ecosystems as monitors of tropical forest catchments. Report. James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia.

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[Extract] This project was initiated to provide empirical data on water quality in streams of the Wet Tropics Biogeographical Region, on the benthic invertebrate communities of the streams, and the relationship, between the two. The proposal aimed to provide a classification of Wet Tropics streams on the basis of their invertebrate communities, and to explain community composition in terms of biogeographic, physical, chemical and biological properties. The main outcome was planned to be a manual for monitoring water quality using invertebrates. The approach was partly based on the classification of streams in Britain (e.g. Wright 1995). Subsequent to the commencement of this study, an Australia wide scheme, following similar principles, was established. This scheme, the Monitoring River Health Initiative (MRIIl) was established within the Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation (L WRRDC). One of the main premises of the scheme is that stream invertebrate species respond differentially to different conditions of habitat, water quality and disturbance and so can give an integrated indication of the recent history of a particular site. There are many case studies that support this premise, including studies in the Wet Tropics (Pearson and Penridge 1987). However, there is little experimental evidence at the community level to back up monitoring schemes, by calibrating responses of invertebrate populations and communities to different levels of contamination or disturbance. Consequently, LWRRDC commissioned research to investigate and quantify experimentally the effects of selected impacts on stream communities, including a project based on tropical streams, JCUll, which ran in parallel with JCU8. Certain studies were shared between the two projects, and will therefore be referred to here.

The focus of JCU8 on streams of the Wet Tropics arose from the following: 1. on the basis of detailed studies of two streams, it was known that Wet Tropics streams have very high biodiversity on national and world scales (Pearson et al. 1986, Lake et al. 1994); 2. the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) was inscribed on the basis of several attributes, including biodiversity, ecological processes and evolutionary processes; 3. informed management of the WTWHA and contiguous catchments in the Wet Tropics bioregion was critical to sustaining these special values; 4. catchment use is a major threat to these values: in particular, agriculture, infrastructure development and tourism and recreation impact on catchments and directly on streams; 5. stream water quality reflects catchment integrity, and water quality may be best monitored using invertebrate communities, which integrate various and variable contaminants over time; 6. management agencies required better understanding of the biota of Wet Tropics streams, and of their utility in monitoring; there was thus a need to develop tools for assessment and monitoring.

This report outlines the approach of this project, its results, and their application. The project could not be completed within the original time frame for several logistical reasons, but it is continuing so that the original goals are met. In particular, a monitoring manual is only partly finished, and scientific publications are only just beginning to appear. Nevertheless, the aims are being addressed in continuing work, with the manual expected to be completed early in 1999.

Item ID: 36653
Item Type: Report (Report)
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ACTFR Report No. 98/26

Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 00:20
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 100%
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