Improving the predictive ability of freshwater ecosystem health models

Healthy Land and Water is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works with members from government, industry and the community to protect and improve South East Queensland’s (SEQ) waterways. Healthy Land and Water monitors the condition of these waterways through its Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP), which underpins their annual ecosystem-health report card documenting the condition of waterways across 19 catchments in SEQ.

In 2014, Healthy Waterways and its partners undertook a comprehensive review of its monitoring program, Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP), which has been in operation for more than 10 years. The goal of the review was to take better advantage of the long-term EHMP dataset, significant advances in waterway modelling in the region, and reduce the dependence on costly and restrictive field based monitoring. One of the main  recommendations of the review was to:

  • Develop predictive models that can be used to estimate ecosystem health-scores at previously sampled and unsampled locations throughout SEQ.

The goal of this project is to work with Healthy Land and Water to address this recommendation. More specifically, to investigate the feasibility of moving to a model-based monitoring, assessment and reporting framework. We have developed models to predict annual scores for each of the four freshwater indicator groups (benthic macroinvertebrates, ecosystem processes, fish, and physicochemical), as well as annual ecosystem-health scores at the 135 long-term freshwater EHMP sites.  We have also reviewed and provided recommendations about innovative in-situ sensing technologies (Year 1), with the aim of increasing the spatio-temporal coverage of streams data, while reducing the cost of sampling. We are currently developing tools for adaptive sampling designs on streams (SSNdesign package for R) and predictive models (Year 2) that can be used to address the recommendation. The tools will be used to develop a suite of adaptive sampling designs and a predictive model (Year 3) that can be used within a pilot study implemented by Healthy Land and Water in the future.

Funding Body: 

Southeast Queensland Healthy Land and Water


Associate Professor James McGree
Alan Pearse


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