Hosted by the National Water Commission which has funded the four year research through its Raising National Water Standards Program, the event “Highs and lows of river and wetland health” coincides with International World Water Day on Thursday March 22.

The Canberra seminar will feature a research study by ARI’s Professor Angela Arthington which aims to improve the health of the streams downstream of dams.

This research represents the first attempt in Australia to explore the scientific and practical implications of using ELOHA (Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration) — a new framework to support environmental flows that maintain the health of streams and rivers at a regional scale, in this case South East Queensland. ELOHA has been central to ARI’s field experimental designs examining the ecological impacts of flow changes by dams.

“The extensive ecological data produced from this research is able to assist water organisations in their dam management and water release strategies,” said Professor Arthington.

“ELOHA can be used to develop quantitative relationships between measures of flow and ecological responses to near natural flows. It also examines the effects of altered flow on ecological responses below dams.

“The way water is released from dams can seriously affect the ecological health of streamside vegetation, as well as plants growing in the water and fish.”

Professor Arthington said the study had also provided useful ecological data to test the beneficial as well as adverse, ecological effects of last summer’s flooding in South East Queensland.

“This data provides us with a very useful ecological baseline for determining the impacts of the recent floods,” she said.

“The ELOHA framework itself is extremely useful in measuring the effects of many dams in a region and helps provide advice on improving environmental flows in an area such as South East Queensland.”

ARI’s Dr Fran Sheldon will also be presenting at the event, discussing the outcomes of a large research project focusing on monitoring the ecological impacts of low flows and how recognition of them can be used in water resource planning.

“This project has involved researchers from across the country analysing long-term datasets to quantify the impacts of low flows on our waterways. Using the data we were able to identify locations at high risk of having low flow impact and therefore places to focus water resource planning,” said Dr Sheldon.

“The project outcomes will therefore assist those involved in water management in accounting for, analysing and managing low flow impacts.”