School of Science, Engineering and Information Technology

Research themes

This research program will have overlapping theme between ecology and hydrology of large river and wetland systems which are impacted jointly by human and climate change. The research focus of the symposium presentation will therefore to understand these issues and developing strategies for management and restoration of wetlands for promoting ecological resilience.

Wetland ecological and hydrological changes and modelling basin management

The catchments of large river systems in China and Australia have undergone substantial change on ecology and hydrology over the long period of time. The history of civilization in Murray, Yangtze and Yellow River Basins has been reported as far back as the Holocene. The characteristic changes in hydrology and ecology with respect to anthropogenic impacts and natural climate variability of water resources are significant for future management of water. This research will help establish a platform to understand the sensitivity of energy and water to changes in atmospheric conditions, locally through connections with ENSO and Indian Monsoon variability, and is expected by ground water resources in China and Australia.

Scientists: Junguo Liu, Du Pengfei, Peter Scales, Jessica Reeves, Giri Kattel, Yangmin Qin, Martin Thoms

Wetland ecosystem response to drastic human disturbances and river regulations

Ecological attributes of large river floodplain wetlands have been modified by recent drastic industrial and cultural developments in Australia and China particularly during the 20th century. Modern farming practices have made implications for physical and hydrological features of floodplain wetlands including the changes in water quality and sediment processes. A high turnover rate of organic matter and nutrients are predicted to occur as a result of sudden natural flood events, however, intensification of land use including waste disposal, agriculture, grazing and forest clearance in catchments all have considerable implications for changes in wetland ecosystems. The large scale alteration of rivers in Australia and China for agricultural, hydropower and industrial development in during the 20th century has modified morphology and natural habitats of wide range of biota consequently reducing the biodiversity and floodplains lake ecosystems.

Scientists: Lei Cao, Xuhui Dong, Xiangdong Yang, Jenny Davis, Giri Kattel, Mujtaba Hassan, Zhenwen Liu, Guoping Wang, Michael Reid, Martin Thoms

Recent impact of climate change and global warming on wetland ecosystems

 Rapid rate of climate warming in recent decades has caused significant impacts on large river floodplain wetland ecosystems of Australia and China through a variety of ways such as via alteration of flood events, channel morphology, nutrient dynamics and growth and reproduction of wetland and riparian biota. Climate warming reduces annual inflows and runoff volume of the large river systems, also alters river channels, erosion, nutrient and sediment transports influencing terrestrial vegetation, soil moisture and evapotranspiration processes. However, the mechanisms behind climate change particularly the impacts associated directly and indirectly with wetland ecosystems have become increasingly complex to understand.

Scientists: Zhenwen Liu, Max Finlayson, Peter Gell, Patrick Rioual, Prem Chhetri, Michael Reid

Water quality, wetland resilience, ecosystem services and management

 Nature provides ‘life support services’ at virtually every scale, that many are free of charge (not captured by markets), and that many are irreplaceable by technology. However, those global resources, both with free of charge, and those with marketable values, have become increasingly scarce during the 21st century. Human domination in the biosphere is the main cause for decline in services provided by ecosystems due to alteration of global biogeochemical cycles. The need for managing the natural capital of the human society in a sustainable way is thus of high priority. The large river systems of Australia and China are significant natural resources providing important provision, supporting, regulating and cultural services to humans over centuries. The decline of services for example water quality, food resources and aesthetic values from these river systems would have considerable implications on sustainable living. Understanding the underlying basic ecological mechanisms that link certain goods and services of river ecosystems to its supporting system to the society is crucial for managing sustainable riverine wetland ecosystems and promote ecological resilience. Such knowledge is also important to estimate the qualitative reliability of the service, i.e. the capacity to ‘work upon demand’, and the sensitivity of this reliability to human-accelerated environmental change.

Scientists: Max Finlayson, Prem Chhetri, Junguo Liu, Peter Scales, Yuwei Chen, Samantha Capon, Jenny Davis