Freshwater ecology & management

RIEL is uniquely placed at the centre of the largest remaining complex of free-flowing rivers in the world. The flagship initiative within this theme is the highly successful $30m Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) research hub that has contributed enormously to our understanding of aquatic systems, from Broome in the west to the tip of Cape York in the east. The TRaCK collaboration is delivering practical and fundamental knowledge of how these river systems work, their values to society and advice on how they should be managed for future generations. TRaCK will commence its second phase of research as a key component of the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) North Australia Hub, a national collaborative initiative hosted by RIEL.

There is enormous interest throughout Australia in exploring the potential for making ‘better’ use of the 60% of Australia’s runoff that flows through this region. But this water is already supporting healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems and so decisions about how we use it for other purposes need to be based on high quality science. Any intensification of water management in the north will need to be based on resilient approaches tailored to the exceptionally high intra -annual variability of rainfall, a likely increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, nutrient-poor soils, and which recognise the importance of maintaining the connections between rivers, their catchments, floodplains and estuaries.
Such knowledge underpins sustainable use of what is becoming one of the world’s most precious resources -- clean fresh water.

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