Feature Length Live Virtual Presentation 10th Australian Stream Management Conference 2021

Narrative-based reporting to evaluate river-basin management for waterbirds (#14)

Brittany Betteridge 1 , Alex Meehan 1 , Kathleen Dawe 2 , Lara Palmer 2
  1. Riverine Ecology, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Canberra, ACT, Australia
  2. River Connectivity and Climate Change, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Canberra, ACT, Australia
  • Evaluating the Basin Plan for 2020 required a new methodology to assess the contribution of BP policy levers to waterbird outcomes. We developed a program logic framework to integrate quantitative and qualitive data in a narrative-style report. In this paper we focus on the empiric example of colonial bird breeding opportunities and events, and how well these have been supported by environmental watering.

  • We assessed Specific Flow Indicators (SFIs) for colonial waterbird breeding opportunities under baseline hydrologic conditions. This baseline was compared to observed SFI data adjusted by catchment for climatic and in-flow conditions to give an expected number of colonial waterbird breeding opportunities. This SFI analysis was compared to actual observed breeding events at key colonial waterbird breeding sites in the Murray-Darling Basin. These findings were tested using a participatory research network of waterbird experts.

  • We found that the number of breeding opportunities was low but expected since 2012 given mostly dry and very dry climate categorisations. We also found that SFIs were not predicting events well, with actual observed breeding events occurring with unmet SFIs. The narrative-based approach was useful to explain across limited monitoring data sets, and test uncertainty in colonial nester responses to environmental water.

  • The example of colonial waterbird breeding shows the methodological ability to integrate modelled hydrological data, on-ground ecological monitoring and expert opinion. The narrative-based methodology offers transferable lessons for policy-makers who must evaluate environmental policy against complex ecological systems and a highly variable climate, but also communicate findings to lay audiences.
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