Kennard, M.J. (ed) (2010). Identifying high conservation value aquatic ecosystems in northern Australia. Interim Report for the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and the National Water Commission. Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) Commonwealth Environmental Research Facility, Charles Darwin University, Darwin. ISBN: 978‐1‐921576‐23‐2.

Book · January 2014with 203 Reads
  • ... The first aim of the present study is to bring together a diverse set of information sources to enable the distribution for the region's freshwater fishes to be accurately mapped and defined and available for use in future assessment of management strategies and development options (database available on request to BP or MK). For example, information concerning the distribution of fishes (along with similar information on other aquatic taxa such as turtles, waterbirds and macroinvertebrates) has been used to map and model biodiversity patterns and identify conservation values of aquatic systems in the region (Kennard 2010). Similarly, these data have been used to determine the extent to which the existing conservation reserve system protects freshwater fishes ( Hermoso et al. 2011) and to prioritize conservation efforts ( Hermoso et al. 2012, 2016. ...
    ... For example, information concerning the distribution of fishes (along with similar information on other aquatic taxa such as turtles, waterbirds and macroinvertebrates) has been used to map and model biodiversity patterns and identify conservation values of aquatic systems in the region (Kennard 2010). Similarly, these data have been used to determine the extent to which the existing conservation reserve system protects freshwater fishes ( Hermoso et al. 2011) and to prioritize conservation efforts ( Hermoso et al. 2012, 2016. The second aim of this study is to assemble the data needed for macroecological examination of the relationships between emergent properties of river fish assemblages (e.g. ...
    ... Lower Risk/Least Concern and Data Deficient). The conservation status used here may differ from State jurisdictional classifications in some instances, but is that used in the most recent examination of the conservation value of northern Australian aquatic ecosystems (Kennard 2010). ...
    Article
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    Northern Australia is biologically diverse and of national and global conservation signicance. Its ancient landscape contains the world’s largest area of savannah ecosystem in good ecological condition and its rivers are largely free-flowing. Agriculture, previously confined largely to open range-land grazing, is set to expand in extent and to focus much more on irrigated cropping and horticulture. Demands on the water resources of the region are thus, inevitably increasing. Reliable information is required to guide and inform development and help plan for a sustainable future for the region which includes healthy rivers that contain diverse fish assemblages. Based on a range of information sources, including the outcomes of recent and extensive new field surveys, this study maps the distribution of the 111 freshwater fishes (excluding elasmobranches) and 42 estuarine vagrants recorded from freshwater habitats of the region. We classify the habitat use and migratory biology of each species. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of the diversity and distribution of fishes of the region within a standardised nomenclatural framework. In addition, we summarise the outcomes of recent phylogeographic and phylogenetic research using molecular technologies to identify where issues of taxonomy may need further scrutiny. The study provides an informed basis for further research on the spatial arrangement of biodiversity and its relationship to environmental factors (e.g. hydrology), conservation planning and phylogentic variation within individual taxa.
  • ... The spatial distributions of 45 freshwater fish species, eight turtle spe- cies, and 86 waterbird species (Appendix S1) were used as biodiversity surrogates in the analysis, and were sourced from Kennard (2010). ...
    ... The most popular freshwater fish species for recreational fishing in the region was selected for mapping areas of potential value for this ser- vice ( Figure 2c). The spatial distribution of barramundi (Lates calcarifer) derived from the predictive models described above (Kennard, 2010) was filtered by potential accessibility to recreational fishing (see Close et al., 2014). In this way, only areas of potential distribution for barra- mundi that were accessible by road (5-km buffer along roads) or close to regional towns (e.g. ...
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    • Integrating ecosystem services (ESs) in landscape planning can help to identify conservation opportunities by finding co‐benefits between biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of regulating and cultural ecosystem services. The adequate integration of ESs needs careful consideration of potential trade‐offs, however, especially between provisioning services and biodiversity conservation (e.g. the potentially negative consequences of agricultural water extraction within areas important for the maintenance of biodiversity). These trade‐offs have been overlooked in systematic spatial planning to date, especially in freshwater systems. • marxan with zones was used to identify priority areas for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity (139 species of freshwater fish, turtles, and waterbirds) and the provision of freshwater ESs in the Daly River, northern Australia. Four different surrogates for ESs were mapped, including those potentially incompatible with conservation goals (i.e. groundwater provision for agriculture and recreational fisheries) and those that are more compatible with conservation (i.e. flood regulation by riparian forests; provision of perennial water). The spatial allocation of multiple management zones was prioritized: (i) three conservation zones, aiming to represent freshwater biodiversity and compatible ESs to enhance co‐benefits; and (ii) two production zones, where access to provisioning ESs could be granted. The representation of ESs obtained when using the multi‐zoning approach was compared with that achieved with a single management zone approach. The comparison was performed across different representation targets. • Different results were found with low and high targets for ESs. With low targets (<25% of all ESs), the multi‐zoning approach achieved up to 53% more co‐benefits than the single‐zone approach. With high targets (>25% of all ESs), the trade‐offs avoided were more evident, with up to 56% less representation of incompatible ESs within conservation zones. • Multi‐zone planning could help decision makers respond better to the increasingly complex catchment management context, caused by an increasing demand for provisioning services and a diminishing availability of resources, as well as manage and plan for challenges in other realms facing similar problems.
  • ... Unlike many areas of the world, aquatic ecosystems of Cape York Peninsula are extensive and have high ecological integrity. They support a diverse and unique variety of aquatic, riparian and terrestrial biodiversity (and provide a robust refuge for many globally threatened species), with natural flow regimes, and relatively intact riverine landscapes (Pusey & Kennard 2009;Kennard 2010;Ward et al. 2011). ...
    ... Cape York Peninsula contains a high diversity of freshwater-dependent species, and high levels of endemism (Kennard 2010;Pusey et al. 2011b). For example, river basins of Cape York Peninsula contain a very rich freshwater fish fauna, with basins such as the Jardine, Wenlock, Olive-Pascoe, Archer and Endeavour, being particularly diverse relative to other Australian river basins of comparable size. ...
    Conference Paper
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    The workshop, held on 9-10 October 2012 concluded that there are a series of key natural attributes likely to have outstanding universal value in terms of the World Heritage Convention criteria. Using data from numerous sources the Panel identified seven major attributes that should form the basis of a nomination for world heritage listing. Maps were subsequently developed that reflected the geographic locations and extent of these outstanding attributes and that provided a basis for identifying the specific boundaries for a nomination. The seven particular natural attributes that were identified and recognised by the Panel to be outstanding are: (1) tropical savanna landscapes; (2) aquatic ecosystems and freshwater biodiversity; (3) rainforest ecosystems; (4) Cape York Peninsula as a continental scale biological bridge; (5) coastal aeolian dune systems; (6) bauxite landscapes; and (7) the development of scleromorphy.
  • ... We delineated 2316 planning units (hydrologically-defined sub catchments, 30 km 2 average area) across the catchment, using ARC Hydro for AcrGIS 9.3 (ESRI, 2013). We calculated the area of occupancy of all the freshwater fish species (44 species) occurring in the study area using information from a larger database on aquatic species distributions in northern Australia (Kennard, 2010). We considered two major threats, including (1) presence of dams and weirs, which can represent barriers to fish movements, and ...
    Article
    Limited resources available for conservation require prioritizing location and level of conservation management efforts to abate threats to species. Ideally, the optimal level of management effort to allocate to an action should be informed by the species' responses to actions. This would enhance cost-effectiveness of conservation recommendations. How continuous species' responses to varying levels of management effort (‘species response curves’) affect the cost of abating threats to species is poorly understood, but critical for cost-effective threat management.
  • ... Understanding taxonomic diversity is particularly pertinent in the AMT given the future proposals to develop the region (Bowman et al. 2010). In preparation for this development, significant effort has gone into preparing systematic conservation plans for freshwater taxa across the AMT and within catchments (Kennard 2010, Hermoso et al. 2012a, b, Linke et al. 2012). The goal of these plans is to identify areas that should be protected to maximize the number of conserved species. ...
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    Full-text available
    The Australian Monsoonal Tropics (AMT) is a unique location for the study of phylogeography and intraspecific genetic variation in freshwater fish. We assessed the phylogeographic structure of 5 species from 2 genera across the region. The species included 3 neosilurids (Plotosidae, Neosilurus hyrtlii, Neosilurus ater, and Neosilurus pseudospinosus) and 2 members of the genus Oxyeleotris (Eleotridae, O. selheimi and O. lineolata). We used mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) and phylogenetic analyses to explore the phylogeographic histories of these species. Overall, phylogeographic patterns were inconsistent. Some species were highly structured, and phylogeographic breaks were detected (e.g., N. hyrtlii, N. pseudospinosus, and O. selheimi), but other species showed no obvious divergences across the AMT (N. ater and O. lineolata). All species sampled in the Gulf of Carpentaria had shallow phylogenies, consistent with the expectation that historically, Lake Carpentaria would have provided connectivity through this region. All species also showed evidence of recent connectivity across drainage divides on the eastern and western coasts of the Cape York Peninsula. Some species in the Kimberley region were highly structured, consistent with expectation that these ancient and geologically stable catchments would promote divergence in allopatry. Conservation efforts should now be directed toward ensuring that the intraspecific biodiversity identified in our study and others are protected in the future.
  • ... We sourced presence-absence data for 104 freshwater fish species across the study area from the Northern Australian Freshwater Fish Atlas (www.jcu.edu.au/actfr) updated by [19]. This dataset contains records for more than 2300 sampling sites, although we retained for further analysis only sites with true presence-absence data (n = 714 sites). ...
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    When identifying conservation priorities, the accuracy of conservation assessments is constrained by the quality of data available. Despite previous efforts exploring how to deal with imperfect datasets, little is known about how data uncertainty translates into errors in conservation planning outcomes. Here, we evaluate the magnitude of commission and omission error, effectiveness and efficiency of conservation planning outcomes derived from three datasets with increasing data quality. We demonstrate that investing in data acquisition might not always be the best strategy as the magnitude of errors introduced by new sites/species can exceed the benefits gained. There was a trade-off between effectiveness and efficiency due to poorly sampled rare species. Given that data acquisition is limited by the high cost and time required, we recommend focusing on improving the quality of data for those species with the highest level of uncertainty (rare species) when acquiring new data.
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    Planning for the remediation of multiple threats is crucial to ensure the long term persistence of biodiversity. Limited conservation budgets require prioritizing which management actions to implement and where. Systematic conservation planning traditionally assumes that all the threats in priority sites are abated (fixed prioritization approach). However, abating only the threats affecting the species of conservation concerns may be more cost-effective. This requires prioritizing individual actions independently within the same site (independent prioritization approach), which has received limited attention so far. We developed an action prioritization algorithm that prioritizes multiple alternative actions within the same site. We used simulated annealing to find the combination of actions that remediate threats to species at the minimum cost. Our algorithm also accounts for the importance of selecting actions in sites connected through the river network (i.e., connectivity). We applied our algorithm to prioritize actions to address threats to freshwater fish species in the Mitchell River catchment, northern Australia. We compared how the efficiency of the independent and fixed prioritization approach varied as the importance of connectivity increased. Our independent prioritization approach delivered more efficient solutions than the fixed prioritization approach, particularly when the importance of achieving connectivity was high. By spatially prioritizing the specific actions necessary to remediate the threats affecting the target species, our approach can aid cost-effective habitat restoration and land-use planning. It is also particularly suited to solving resource allocation problems, where consideration of spatial design is important, such as prioritizing conservation efforts for highly mobile species, species facing climate change-driven range shifts, or minimizing the risk of threats spreading across different realms.
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    Refugia play a key ecological role for the persistence of biodiversity in areas subject to natural or human disturbance. Temporary freshwater ecosystems regularly experience dry periods, which constrain the availability of suitable habitats. Current and future threats (e.g. water extraction and climate change) can exacerbate the negative effects of drying conditions. This could compromise the persistence of a large proportion of global freshwater biodiversity, so the identification and protection of refugia seems an urgent task.
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    The Wet Tropics region of north Queensland has outstanding environmental values, contains the highest biological diversity in Australia, and borders the Great Barrier Reef. Comparable to other tropical areas worldwide, increasing urban and agricultural development in the Wet Tropics has caused concerns with respect to ecosystem degradation due to poor water quality in freshwater reaches and marine environments. Key issues currently identified in the Wet Tropics include erosion and subsequent stream turbidity and sedimentation, nutrients from erosion and fertiliser use and pesticide residue contamination. Issues such as reduced dissolved oxygen, acid sulfate soil runoff, and biological factors such as weed infestation, reduced and degraded riparian vegetation condition, and flow modification have also been identified. These issues mainly arise from agricultural activities with lesser effects from urban development. Management of pollution to improve in-stream water quality requires a long-term monitoring program to characterize water quality conditions over different flows and seasons. This type of monitoring program is underway; however, the focus is on the Great Barrier Reef and does not fully consider freshwater ecosystem health. Another major issue is the lack of a fully developed conceptual framework that links changed land use to water quality and subsequently to aquatic ecosystem health. In this paper, we establish the current level of water quality knowledge in the Wet Tropics while outlining a conceptual framework connecting changing land management practices and their effects to water quality and to ecosystem health.
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    Conservation planning is sensitive to a number of scale-related issues, such as the spatial extent of the planning area, or the size of units of planning. An extensive literature has reported a decline in efficiency of conservation outputs when planning at small spatial scales or when using large planning units. However, other key issues remain, such as the grain size used to represent the spatial distribution of conservation features. Here, we evaluate the effect of grain size of species distribution data versus size of planning units on a set of performance measures describing efficiency (ratio of area where species are represented/total area needed), rate of commission errors (species erroneously expected to occur), representativeness (proportion of species achieving the target) and a novel measure of overall conservation uncertainty (integrating commission errors and uncertainty in the actual locations where species occur). We compared priority areas for the conservation of freshwater fish in the Daly River basin (northern Australia). Our study demonstrates that the effect of grain size of species distribution data was more important than planning unit size on conservation planning performance, with an increase in commission errors up to 80% and conservation uncertainty over 90% when coarse data were used. This was more pronounced for rare than common species, where the mismatch between coarse representations of biodiversity patterns and the smaller areas of actual occupancy of species was more evident. Special attention should be paid to the high risk of misallocation of limited budgets when planning in heterogeneous or disturbed environments, where biodiversity is patchily distributed, or when planning for conservation of rare species.
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    Macroinvertebrate biological monitoring in Victoria, Australia, has required substantial resources over the past decade, and often results have taken years to reach water managers. Ways of reducing the time and effort required in this program were examined. The influence of taxonomic resolution and sample habitat on the classification and ordination of 165 stream sites in 27 catchments across Victoria was examined by progressively reducing the level of detail in the original data. Macroinvertebrate samples were collected from 2 habitats (riffle and edge) at each site. A 3rd data set was generated by amalgamating the individual habitats. These 3 habitat treatments were analyzed at family, genus, and species level, and a 4th taxonomic treatment was generated at species level including Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) taxa only. All 12 data sets were analyzed using presence/absence data, and each was used to classify sites across Victoria into groups that were characterized using environmental variables. The Mantel test was used to compare the 12 analyses, and showed that each of the analyses produced similar patterns. A number of possible ways to reduce time and effort in broad-scale macroinvertebrate studies were evident: 1) single habitat sampling was sufficient for biological monitoring, 2) studies that require species-level discrimination may be able to reduce costs by identifying EPT taxa only, and 3) genus-level identifications offered no substantial advantage over family-level identifications. Overall, species-level identification appeared to be unnecessary for broad-scale monitoring programs and, in future, taxonomic effort could be reduced by identifying to family level only.
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    This work has been made available to the staff and students of the University of Sydney for the purposes of research and study only. It constitutes material that is held by the University for the purposes of reporting for HERDC and the ERA. This work may not be downloaded, copied and distributed to any third party .
  • Article
    The term riverine landscape implies a holistic geomorphic perspective of the extensive interconnected series of biotopes and environmental gradients that, with their biotic communities, constitute fluvial systems. Natural disturbance regimes maintain multiple interactive pathways (connectivity) across the riverine landscape. Disturbance and environmental gradients, acting in concert, result in a positive feedback between connectivity and spatio-temporal heterogeneity that leads to the broadscale patterns and processes responsible for high levels of biodiversity. Anthropogenic impacts such as flow regulation, channelization, and bank stabilization, by (1) disrupting natural disturbance regimes, (2) truncating environmental gradients, and (3) severing interactive pathways, eliminate upstream-downstream linkages and isolate river channels from riparian/floodplain systems and contiguous groundwater aquifers. These alterations interfere with successional trajectories, habitat diversification, migratory pathways and other processes, thereby reducing biodiversity. Ecosystem management is necessary to maintain or restore biodiversity at a landscape scale. To be effective, conservation efforts should be based on a solid conceptual foundation and a holistic understanding of natural river ecosystems. Such background knowledge is necessary to re-establish environmental gradients, to reconnect interactive pathways, and to reconstitute some semblance of the natural dynamics responsible for high levels of biodiversity. The challenge for the future lies in protecting the ecological integrity and biodiversity of aquatic systems in the face of increasing pressures on our freshwater resources. This will require integrating sound scientific principles with management perspectives that recognize floodplains and groundwaters as integral components of rivers and that are based on sustaining, rather than suppressing, environmental heterogeneity.
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    Readers of the note by Brooks et al. (2004) will, I hope, be persuaded of the urgent need for more comprehensive data on species. It would be unfortunate, though, if readers formed the impression that biodiversity processes cannot be seriously considered by conservation planners because "Techniques for mapping and measuring ecological and evolutionary processes are in their infancy." More unfortunate would be the impression that "broad-scale biodiversity attributes" (Brooks et al. 2004), hereafter "land types" (such as vegetation units or land systems) are alternatives to data on species. Most conservation planners would agree with Brooks et al. that different biodiversity currencies have different advantages and problems. From that starting point, divergent courses can be plotted. Brooks et al. recommend species data as a more promising option than relying on land types and call for an end to "armchair environmental classification." Others have taken a different course. Since the early 1990s, many regional conservation plans have been shaped by a mixture of biodiversity surrogates, selected from a list of potential types (Table 1) and assembled into composite data sets (Noss 1993; Davis et al. 1999; Groves et al. 2000; Cowling et al. 2003). The rationale is straightforward: all surrogates are limited idiosyncratically in their depictions of biodiversity pattern and process, so a more comprehensive array of surrogates gives a better picture.
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    In the concerns about biodiversity conservation, fresh waters have received less attention than tropical forests and oceans. However, running waters harbor a diverse panoply of species, habitats, and ecosystems, including some of the most threatened and many having great value to human society. An overview of the biological diversity of running waters and the state of imperilment is presented. Six major factors that threaten destruction of running water species and ecosystems are discussed: habitat loss and degradation; species invasions; overharvesting; secondary extinctions; chemical and organic pollution; global climate change. General measures for recovery and restoration of running waters conclude the article.