Balancing estuarine and societal health in a changing environment

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Project Team: Fiona Valesini (MU), Assoc. Prof. Matt Hipsey (UWA), Prof. Bradley Eyre, Prof. Paul Plummer (UWA), Dr. Kieryn Kilminster, Prof. Michael Elliott, Dr Naomi Wells, Mustefa Yasin


This project aims to facilitate sustainable development in a fast-growing coastal region (Peel-Harvey, southwestern Australia). By exploiting rare 30+ year data sets for this catchment-estuary system and integrating ecological, hydrological, biogeochemical, modelling and socio-economic expertise, this study seeks to link primary catchment drivers to estuarine health response (up to higher fauna), quantify estuarine ecological health and ecosystem services under historical and future scenarios, and test resilience across the human-natural system. Envisaged outcomes include evidence-based catchment planning solutions that optimise trade-offs between socio-economic development goals and minimal downstream impacts on estuarine health.

Within this multi-disciplinary project our specific goal is measure how the controls on nutrient turnover and greenhouse gas (CO2, CH4, N2O) production change as solutes move through soil, groundwater, streams, and, finally, estuaries. To do so, we will develop stable isotope indicators of organic matter (C and N) turnover and work with colleagues at UWA to incorporate these into catchment nutrient models.