Searching for the key to river health

THE estuaries of the Moyne, Curdies and Aire rivers in the south-west are being studied as part of a project to find out how surrounding land uses impact on estuaries’ health.

The multi-agency research project hopes to develop a template that can be used to determine estuary health in a wide range of locations.

A Monash University team this month collected data on the ecology of the three estuaries, which included studies of seagrass, varieties of fish and invertebrates such as shrimp and snails as well as nutrient in the water and the sediment on the river floor.

Team spokesman Ryan Woodland said the findings could be used to determine appropriate land uses around estuaries. “It could be used by decision makers, in municipal councils or at a higher level to decide whether to allocate land to certain usage, such as agriculture or forestry or urban use,” Mr Woodland said. “It will be useful for the management of fisheries.”

Mr Woodland said part of the project would consider whether the absence, presence or abundance of the fish sea bass could be used as indicator of estuary health.

Five other Victorian estuaries will also be studied as part of the project. The project is being led by Perran Cook from Monash University’s chemistry school and has been funded by the Australian Research Council.

Other agencies involved include Deakin University, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Department of Primary Industries and the Environment Protection Authority.

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