Literature review: Risk assessment and decision making framework for managing groundwater dependent ecosystems with declining water levels


The potential impacts of a drying climate on freshwater ecosystems in Australia are alarming. In many regions, competition for water resources between humans and the environment presents a challenge for environmental managers. This is because a complex array of factors, including climate change and human activity, interact to impact our freshwater ecosystems. The best way to address this challenge is to identify the level of risk to freshwater ecosystems associated, both individually and synergistically, with climate change projections and water resource and land use practices. 

This literature review provides the basis for a project to develop and test a risk assessment and decision-making tool for managing groundwater dependent wetlands and caves affected by climate change and other stressors. The project: Adapting to climate change: a risk assessment and decision framework for managing groundwater dependent ecosystems with declining water levels is funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).

A key knowledge gap in climate change adaptation research is the capacity for species, communities and ecosystems to adapt to changes in environmental variables, particularly water. In this project, habitat requirements (the hydrological and water quality conditions under which biota will persist) was identified from long-term datasets. This was based on the relationship between surface and groundwater levels and quality, rainfall recharge processes and biota requirements. Multivariate statistics was used to identify hydrological thresholds for functional groups of biota, which could be applied across Australia. Current distribution of these habitats was mapped and compared to predicted future distribution of these habitats based on groundwater levels modelled by different climate change or anthropogenic extraction scenarios. This will enable environmental managers to adapt to climate change at the local, landscape and catchment scales by identifying sites of high ecosystem value, including species and communities at risk. The framework was tested in south-western Australia, a global biodiversity hotspot and one of the earliest regions impacted by climate change, but the methodology is designed to be transferable to other types of GDEs and locations in Australia and internationally.

Please cite this report as:
Nugent, G, Chambers, J & Speldewinde, P 2013, Adapting to climate change: A risk assessment and decision making framework for managing groundwater dependent ecosystems with declining water levels. Supporting document 1: Literature review, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 38 pp.

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This photo is copyright Pipidinny Swamp, Western Australia © The Department of Water, Government of Western Australia



Detailed Descriptions
Geographic and Temporal Extents
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Attributions and Constraints
Gaia Nugent,Jane Chambers,Peter Speldewinde