The complexity of ecological system processes make the results of any management intervention difficult to predict. Therefore intervention monitoring is a key component of The Living Murray Environmental Monitoring Program. The aim of intervention monitoring is to improve understanding about the causal links between TLM environmental watering and other management actions, and ecological responses at icon sites. This knowledge enables TLM to continually adapt and improve management of icon sites and watering into the future to optimise ecological outcomes.
As TLM works are completed, measuring the volume of water used at icon sites (including timing, volume and quality of any return flows) is essential to account for and report on how TLM environmental water is used and managed. This area of monitoring was previously included in the compliance monitoring category in the Outcomes and Evaluation Framework, but is now encompassed within intervention monitoring. This change was made to ensure clear linkages between the various information requirements for managing successful watering events and informing the operation of works at icon sites. This includes systems for water measurement and accounting and monitoring risks (previously defined in compliance monitoring) and assessing ecological outcomes resulting from specific watering events or other management actions.
A number of intervention monitoring projects have been funded in the LLCMM icon site by the MDBA from 2007–11. These have focused on weir pool manipulation (specifically weir-pool lowering, i.e. the impact of drought), pumping to key refuge sites and flow enhancement (i.e. flow through barrage fishways). Appendix F provides an example of one such intervention monitoring and details of the background hypotheses underpinning current and future intervention monitoring projects.
In addition to the monitoring undertaken through The Living Murray program, a number of key programs that fall outside the fish/vegetation/birds convention are currently undertaken in the LLCMM, predominantly through the SA Murray–Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board and DEWNR (Table and Appendix G). The Living Murray icon site staff work collaboratively with staff from DEWNR and the SA MDB NRM Board to ensure all monitoring programs are complementary, there is no doubling-up of information collected, and all data is shared and utilised appropriately.
Many of these extra monitoring programs provide additional feedback on the work undertaken through TLM, in that they have helped to inform which sites should be a priority for future watering, or have assisted with the on-going gathering of information at watered sites.
Table : Details of additional ecological monitoring undertaken in the Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth icon site
This projects seeks to determine the location of Southern Bell Frog populations around Lakes Alexandrina, Lake Albert and the EMLR tributaries to assess the species status in the region and determine sites for environmental water delivery to support this EPBC listed species
Community Wetland Monitoring
SA MDB NRM Board / DEWNR / GWLAP / CTLAP
This project involves working with community groups to monitor photo points, ground water, surface water quality and level, fish, frogs, birds and vegetation at several wetlands adjacent to the Lower Lakes
Drought Action Plan threatened fish monitoring
DEWNR / Aquasave Consultants / SARDI
This project monitors populations of threatened fish in, and nearby, the Lower Lakes. Additionally, this project has also undertaken captive breeding of threatened species and established populations in non-drought affected sites outside the LLCMM Icon Site
Ramsar habitat mapping
This project has compared the 2010 condition of the Lower Lakes wetlands with a baseline condition assessment made in 2003 and has also assessed the relative benefit of intervention management strategies by comparing managed versus non-managed wetlands
Acid sulfate soil and water quality monitoring is conducted around the Lower Lakes and EMLR tributaries by the EPA, CSIRO and GWLAP on behalf of the SA MDB NRM Board and DEWNR to assess the impacts of acid sulphate soils exposed during the low lake levels between 2006-2010
Goolwa Channel Water Level Management Project
To assess the impacts of the Goolwa Channel Water Level Management Project, the response of water quality, phytoplankton, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, vegetation, fish, frogs and birds have been monitored
Monitoring was conducted during spring/summer 2010/2011 to assess the response of water quality, nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish, birds, macroinvertebrates, recruitment and connectivity to the first barrages releases in four years.
In establishing their CLLMM long-term plan, DEWNR are undertaking i.condition/baseline, ii. investigative, iii. emergency response, and iv. intervention monitoring in the LLCMM Icon Site. DEWNR and NRA have developed a Statement of Commitment regarding research and monitoring in the CLLMM region.
Greater detail on these monitoring projects is provided in Appendix G.