Marine and Freshwater Research
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Flow to nowhere: the disconnect between environmental watering and the conservation of threatened species in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia

Publication Date May 21, 2021

Abstract

The Murray–Darling Basin Plan was established with the objective of restoring water from irrigation to the environment, thereby conserving wetlands and biodiversity. We examined whether the Plan is achieving this objective by assessing whether environmental watering has helped conserve threatened flow-dependent fauna. Two frog species, two waterbirds and four fishes, were assessed for their conservation status in relation to (1) whether they were targeted in environmental watering plans, (2) whether population monitoring had occurred and (3) evidence of population recovery. We determined indicators of abundance and occurrence of species between 2012–13 and 2018–19 and found widespread inconsistencies in the targeting of environmental watering for these species, including their being overlooked in watering plans and actions in several catchments. Environmental watering had some positive outcomes for some threatened species in some locations on some occasions, but benefits, and their monitoring and reporting, are patchy and inconsistent. Monitoring of temporal trends in distribution, occurrence and abundance of species is inadequate to evaluate success. If the Plan is to achieve its objective and uphold Australia’s international environmental treaty obligations, more needs to be done to target and deliver environmental water for threatened species and improve the monitoring and reporting of outcomes.

Concepts
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Environmental Watering
Occurrence Of Species
Abundance Of Species
Environmental Water
Temporal Trends In Distribution
Murray Darling Basin
Trends In Distribution
International Environmental Obligations
Population Monitoring
Frog Species

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