Relevant research with tangible results for better waterways

Our research focuses on a source-to-sea philosophy, providing the knowledge to underpin the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems. Our researchers have initiated a series of interdisciplinary research projects, creative collaborations that have been recognised internationally. We aim to support governments, resource managers, the water industry and the community with informed research relating to the preservation and management of catchment, river, estuarine and coastal ecosystems.

Balancing water needs for humans and nature

The pattern of river flows and wetland inundation is a primary driver of the structure and function of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Alteration of river flow regimes by dams and water extraction has impacted freshwater and coastal ecosystems on a global scale. Our research seeks to understand important biogeochemistry-ecology relationships, identify the environmental flow needs to protect aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem processes, and guide the development of sustainable water management plans.

Arresting aquatic biodiversity decline

Declining water quality and quantity, habitat modification, overfishing, and biological invasions pose major threats to freshwater and coastal marine biodiversity across the globe. Freshwater biodiversity is particularly threatened, declining far more rapidly than that observed in terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Our research aims to develop tools to support aquatic biodiversity conservation planning and management, improve the sustainability of coastal fisheries, and increase the success and sustainability of restoration and rehabilitation efforts for land and water systems.

Tackling land-based waterways pollution

Diffuse source pollution from agricultural land and pollution from urban and industrial sources pose a significant threat to aquatic biodiversity and human water security. Our research aims to provide solutions, including market based approaches, for land managers to help reduce the carbon, nutrient and sediment footprint from human activities. We seek to understand and minimize the biogeochemical and ecological impact of urban wastewater and stormwater discharges on aquatic systems. We also aim to produce cost-effective and robust tools for monitoring and reporting on aquatic ecosystem health and its impacts on human health.

Making catchments more resilient to climate change

Many catchments and their river channels are in poor condition and are no longer resilient to extreme weather events. During intense rain, streams and rivers break their banks, damage homes and public infrastructure, and carry away thousands of tonnes of productive agricultural soils. The eroded sediment and other pollutants settle in reservoirs, and in downstream harbours and bays, smothering marine habitat. In our changing climate, weather impacts are likely to happen more frequently than before. Our research aims to develop practical and cost-effective methods to repair degraded river channels, gullies and riparian zones. Aligned to this, we apply and develop modelling tools to optimize investment of on-ground actions to achieve multiple benefits. This research underpins efforts to increase resilience of our ecosystems and human populations to meet the challenges of a changing climate.

Contact us

Contact the Australian Rivers Institute team