Demand for water resources are particularly high during prolonged periods of drought. With predicted climatic changes, such impacts are expected to intensify within river ecosystems, particularly during low flow conditions. Identification of biological responses to these conditions may provide a valuable management tool for identifying and assessing catchments at risk.
The Species at Risk (SPEAR) index, is an effective tool for identifying stressor-specific effects based on physiological and biological traits of organisms. Previous successful SPEAR indices include SPEARsalinity and SPEARpesticides The SPEAR index may be an approach to assess risk and provide insights to underpin the implementation of preventative management strategies to reduce the impacts of prolonged drought on the riverine ecosystem.
This research will develop trait-based indicators to identify the impacts of low flow on the macroinvertebrates of south-east Australian rivers using the SPEAR method (SPEARlow flow). This will include acquisition of data from existing databases, supplemented with laboratory-based testing of traits of macroinvertebrates in response to low flow stressors (e.g. increased temperature, decreased oxygen, rheophily). Data obtained to date will be presented at the Congress.
The above research will contribute to a current PhD project, which aims to develop an understanding of water abstraction effects on river ecosystem processes and communities in an Australian context.