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As pressures on land use increase, freshwater systems struggle

The increasing stresses put on freshwater systems as land uses continue to intensify caught the attention recently of a group of 22 aquatic scientists and policymakers from academia, research and government.

They gathered for the 2013 ACEAS Grand Workshop, which was held in Brisbane in June. The workshop is an annual event convened through TERN’s ACEAS facility. All the participants had participated in one or more of nine ACEAS working groups related to freshwater ecology, and the workshop gave them the opportunity to share the findings from their individual working groups, and to collaborate further.

Professor Jenny Davis from Monash University is helping to lead the group as members generate products. She said that although climate change was one of the major themes for the workshop initially, the group decided to focus discussion on the impacts of global land-use intensification on freshwater ecosystems.

‘Even though climate change has been a dominant issue for many of us, when we actually sat down and discussed how we think that might play out, we decided that the parallel issue of an increasing global population that requires more food and more water was where we needed to focus our attention,’ Jenny said.

‘This ACEAS Grand Workshop was unique in that it brought together a group of people who wouldn’t normally work together. There was enough diversity within the group to really be able to think beyond our individual research areas.’

The workshop participants are writing a paper, titled ‘Intensification: a global trend with implications for freshwater ecology’, which they will submit to a major ecological or environmental journal. A sub-group plans to collaborate on implications for freshwater ecosystems of a wetter future associated with climate change. In addition, the group is writing a text for management and government, and is also looking at where the research priorities for freshwater ecology in Australia should lie.

The participants intend that the outcomes will influence research and management of Australia’s freshwater ecosystems.

‘The fact that we’ve just undergone a major change in federal government means that it is timely for us to release the workshop outcomes in the next three to six months,’ Jenny says.

Overall, Jenny said, the ACEAS Grand Workshop was a great learning experience.

‘To get that mixed group of people to come to an agreement on an important issue to tackle, and also to volunteer to be involved going forward in generating useful outcomes together was a very productive, exciting and enjoyable experience.’

Published in TERN e-Newsletter September 2013, from original article published in ACEAS’s September 2013 newsletter

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