The Lake Eyre Basin (LEB) Rivers Assessment is a monitoring program designed to assess the condition of watercourses and catchments within the LEB 'Agreement Area'. The LEB Agreement requires the assessment to be completed as soon as possible after the commencement of the Agreement, and thereafter every ten years.
To enable this formal reporting every ten years, information needs to be collected routinely in the intervening years. The assessment is essential to give us a picture how well we are using and managing the natural resources of the Basin.
Both high and low flows in the Basin have important ecological functions, and overall flow patterns, rather than just individual floods, are important to maintain the ecology of the Basin.
Methodologies for assessing rivers and catchments elsewhere in Australia and the world have limited application to the ephemeral rivers of a large, internal basin spanning multiple jurisdictions such as the LEB. In this regard, the Rivers Assessment is the first of its kind in the world, and designing a monitoring and assessment program for this purpose is a major challenge.
In April 2010 the LEB Ministerial Forum adopted the LEB Rivers Assessment Implementation Plan.
In 2011, hydrological, water quality and fish data will be collected from a number of sites across the Basin. Over time hydrological and fish data can help determine things such as which waterholes retain water and are important ecological refuges during drought, and if fish have been able to repopulate areas following floods. The data collected this year will be analysed, and the methods used will be reviewed, to help guide monitoring in future years.
In April 2010, in addition to approving the initial LEBRA monitoring programs for 2010/11, the LEB Ministerial Forum also endorsed a Strategic Adaptive Management (SAM) approach to the LEBRA, based on three key foundations:
The SAM approach promotes strategic and value-based planning, a learning by doing approach to management planning, and the participation of stakeholders. It is essentially a long-term framework to guide both our monitoring, and how we collectively respond to the knowledge that it generates.
Over the extended time period of the LEBRA many things will change, including governments, political cycles, industries, community patterns, our scientific techniques and resource management methods, as well as the condition of the Basin itself. What we must build in order to transcend these changes are our systems of storing, reviewing, discussing and communicating about the knowledge we gain through monitoring, and our systems for working together to interpret this knowledge and make shared decisions in response.
The SAM framework provides this. At the heart of the SAM approach is a clear and strong link between monitoring and management, together with collaboration among the key, multiple players across the Basin.
Completed in 2009, this project is a study of the people, communities, cultures and economies of the Lake Eyre Basin. It has developed tools for improving sustainable natural resources management at local levels within a large, complex, multi-jurisdictional system.
In the Lake Eyre Basin, as in other regions of natural resource utilisation, optimum natural resource management is aimed at obtaining the best possible balance of environmental, social and economic outcomes. This requires gathering information about the people and communities who rely on and interact with natural resources, as well as information about the natural resources themselves.
This project provides such this information. Developed in parallel with the Lake Eyre Basin Rivers Assessment, this complementary project addresses a corresponding need for improved knowledge of the social and economic conditions and processes in the Basin, greatly strengthening the foundation for future policies and strategies that optimise social/economic and environmental outcomes.
The project was designed to address the challenges and needs of the process of engagement through four phases:
For more information see the summary brochure:
Visit the CRC for Desert Knowledge website to download the full report:
Large amounts of data on LEB wetlands, including those of national and international importance, have been collected over the years. Recently, the Australian Government through the Environmental Resources Information Network, in collaboration with State and Territory governments, produced a whole-of-basin wetland systems map titled Lake Eyre Basin Aquatic Ecosystems.
The information provided in this map will continue to be updated and improved.