Deakin researchers develop estuary health index
23 November 2009
Researchers from Deakin University are helping track the health of estuaries around Victoria.
The new project will help develop a report card on the environmental condition of estuaries which will guide government agencies in prioritising investment for restoration work.
Deakin University was engaged by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) to develop an Index of Estuary Condition for evaluating Victorian estuaries. The Deakin researchers have now been funded through the Victorian Investment Framework to work with DSE to trial the Index on estuaries across the Victorian coastline.
Professor Gerry Quinn, Associate Head of School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University's Warrnambool Campus, said the index considered issues such as physical form, hydrology, water quality, sediment, flora and fauna, and connection to the ocean.
"We are now preparing to trial how the Index works and refine the measures to better evaluate the health of estuaries," Professor Quinn said.
"Only recently have estuaries been included in the Victorian River Health Strategy and considered the bottom reaches of coastal rivers. Previously there was debate about whether they should be part of river or ocean management systems which meant they fell through the jurisdictional cracks. This is a good step forward," he said.
The Index will help government agencies, such as Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs), in management and restoration of estuaries. "They can use it as a report card on the condition of the estuary. We have to make sure it is effective and usable and can be implemented by local agencies," Professor Quinn said.
Professor Quinn is being joined in the project by Dr Adam Pope and Dr Jan Barton, also from Deakin's Warrnambool Campus. They are currently working with CMAs across the state to implement the trials.
The Index will complement the existing Index of Stream Condition (ISC) by providing a consistent state-wide assessment of the environmental condition of estuaries. This will better enable estuarine condition to be reported at regional, state and national levels, prioritisation of resource allocation and strategic evaluation of management interventions in estuaries.
About 20 estuaries will be included in the trial but the specific locations have not yet been confirmed.
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