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Termite mounds. Photo: B Gray

National Environmental Research Program

The National Environmental Research Program (link is external) (NERP) funds environmental research to support decision making. The Australian Government has dedicated around $20 million per year over the period 2011 to 2015 for research into key environmental issues through the program.

In March 2012, funding of $300,000 under the NERP "Emerging Priorities" program was provided to support the projects below. All three projects have now been completed.

  • Development of a Consortium Business Model to implement LEBRA.
  • Analysis of data collected through the Eastern Australian Aerial Waterbird Survey to determine trends in waterbird abundance in major wetland sites in part of the LEB.
  • A project to prioritise threat management of invasive species in the LEB.

Invasive Species in the LEB

The Lake Eyre Basin Rivers Assessment Support - Priority Threat Management of Invasive Plant Species in the Lake Eyre Basin project is being undertaken by CSIRO in conjunction with a project funded under the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Council to look at invasive animals in the LEB.

The purpose of the NERP project is to undertake a systematic analysis of invasive plant species in the Lake Eyre Basin to prioritise which species to invest in managing. The cost of management actions to control each invasive species will be assessed against the technical and practical feasibility that the actions can be carried out.

The outcome of the project will be a prioritised set of management actions for managing the threats posed by invasive plants across the LEB. This work will be a platform for assessments elsewhere in Australia, as well as overseas. The results of this assessment will be made publicly available through a report (part of this project) and journal papers (that will be delivered after the completion of this project, but do not form part of this project) and will form the basis for future coordination of investment in invasive species management in the LEB.

Waterbirds in the Lake Eyre Basin

Lake Eyre Basin wetlands support some of the larger concentration of waterbirds on the continent. As part of the LEB Rivers Assessment, analyses of long-term annual aerial survey data collected over a period of 30 years (1983 - 2013) for waterbird communities across the eastern part of the LEB has been used to assess the condition of wetlands in the LEB. Unlike some other regions of Australia (eg. the Murray-Darling Basin), the data showed little evidence of any long term decline in species abundance, richness, breeding abundance, breeding species richness of abundances of any of the six functional groups (ducks, herbivores, large wading birds, piscivores, shorebirds), providing a strong indication that the condition of LEB wetlands and their rivers remain in largely natural condition, unaltered over the 30 years for which data were available.

The Waterbirds in the Lake Eyre Basin report for the Lake Eyre Basin Rivers Assessment (April 2013) was prepared by the University of New South Wales Australian Wetlands, Rivers and Landscapes Centre with funding from the Australian Government's National Environmental Research Program.

Business Model for a Consortium to Implement the Lake Eyre Basin Rivers Assessment 2013-16

In May 2012, Kiri-ganai Research was engaged to develop a business model for a Consortium approach to implement LEBRA. On 25-26 June 2012 Kiri-ganai ran a workshop with interested participants who were able to present and discuss different Consortium approaches and other similar models for implementing the LEBRA. There was a significant level of goodwill and combined stakeholder effort that supported the development of the Consortium Business Model, with the final report presented to the Department of the Environment in December 2012. The Consortium Business Model report:

  • explains the integration of the SAM process with LEBRA monitoring;
  • focuses activity around achieving the Condition Assessment, including bringing forward the Condition Assessment to 2015 to feed into the State of the Environment Reporting timeframe in 2016 and beyond;
  • proposes that parties enter into a Consortium Management Agreement, where parties commit to working together and committing funds (cash and in-kind) toward achieving the Condition Assessment; and
  • suggests a revised LEBRA governance structure, with changes to LOG and TRG to ensure some independence from SOG and SAP.

Bioregional Assessment Program - Lake Eyre Basin

The Department of the Environment is implementing the Bioregional Assessment Program in conjunction with Geoscience Australia, Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. The program is overseen by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), a committee appointed to provide scientific advice to decision makers on the impact that coal seam gas and large coal mining development may have on Australia's water resources.

A bioregional assessment is a landscape-scale scientific analysis of the ecology, hydrology, geology and hydrogeology of a bioregion, with explicit assessment of the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining development on landscape features that are dependent on water resources. The aim of the Bioregional Assessment Program is to strengthen the science underpinning decisions about coal development based on their impacts on water quality and quantity in relation to water assets.

The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the priority regions in Australia to be targeted under the Bioregional Assessment Program because it is underlain by significant coal deposits in the Galilee, Cooper, Pedirka and Arckaringa coal basins. The Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining Water Knowledge Program run by the South Australian Government, is laying the foundations of the Lake Eyre Basin Bioregional Assessment. Key components of the Knowledge Program are the LEB Rivers Monitoring and Springs Assessment projects which are being delivered across the entire Lake Eyre drainage basin, covering parts of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. The projects are collating ecological and hydrological data to inform the Bioregional Assessment, and are working collaboratively with the LEB Rivers Assessment teams to enhance data collection and knowledge sharing.