Integrating freshwater wetland science into planning for Great Barrier Reef sustainability

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Arthington, Angela H
Pearson, Richard G
Godfrey, Paul C
Karim, Fazlul
Wallace, Jim
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  1. The paper ‘Biodiversity values of remnant freshwater floodplain lagoons in agricultural catchments: evidence for fish of the Wet Tropics bioregion, northern Australia’, published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems in 2015, has contributed in several ways to the integration of freshwater wetland science within new catchment management policies and practices for Great Barrier Reef (GBR) sustainability. 2 The Tully–Murray biodiversity study developed novel protocols to sample larval, juvenile, and adult fish life‐history stages in floodplain lagoons using a combination of boat‐based backpack electrofishing and fyke netting. In addition, hydrological and hydrodynamic models were applied in a completely new way to quantify the timing, extent, and duration of water connectivity across floodplain streams, cane drains, and wetlands. Combining the two novel approaches enabled an analysis of lagoon fish assemblage patterns in relation to environmental gradients, especially floodplain hydrology, connectivity patterns, and measures related to agricultural land use.
  2. In demonstrating the importance of different levels of connectivity for different biodiversity outcomes in freshwater floodplain lagoons of the Tully–Murray catchment, the subject paper established that floodplain connectivity needs to be taken into consideration in wetland management practices.
  3. The timing of the subject publication was fortuitous. It coincided with the preparation of the evidence‐based 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement on land‐based water quality impacts on the GBR. As one of the few freshwater wetland ecology publications for the catchments of the GBR at that time, this paper played an important role in demonstrating freshwater wetland values, fish conservation options, and management imperatives to sustain wetland ecological health and services in GBR catchments.
  4. By advancing the understanding of factors driving biodiversity patterns, and the importance of connectivity and ecohydrological processes in freshwater floodplain wetlands of the GBR catchment, the Tully–Murray study helped to drive new policy directives for the protection and restoration of catchment, floodplain, and estuary functions, and connectivity, now embedded in the Reef 2050 Long‐Term Sustainability Plan 2018, an overarching strategy for managing the GBR over the next 35 years, and complementary Queensland environmental legislation.
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Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems

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Arthington, AH; Pearson, RG; Godfrey, PC; Karim, F; Wallace, J, Integrating freshwater wetland science into planning for Great Barrier Reef sustainability, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 2020, 30 (9), pp. 1727-1733