Workshop on Murray-Darling Basin climate adaptation options

In mid-July 2010 a group of 18 wetland and water management experts met in Canberra, Australia to review options for coping with adapting to a changing climate in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), south-east Australia’s major river catchment. The workshop was co-organised by Prof Max Finlayson, STRP’s wetlands and climate change expert member, and Brendan Edgar of Australia’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), with DSG Nick Davidson participating.

Deputy Secretary General Nick Davidson, and workshop co-organisers Brendan Edgar (NCCARF) and Max Finlayson (ILWS) - left to right- discuss workshop recommendations

“Wetlands in the Basin are already under intense pressure from past and current management practices, including water allocations, and a current period of drought,” said Max Finlayson, introducing the workshop. “Climate change is expected to exacerbate all these issues and further complicate how we manage our wetlands with large parts of the Basin, particularly in the south-east, expected to be warmer and drier in the future.”

The workshop reviewed issues and opportunities for how to best maintain wetlands and their ecosystem services in such a changing and variable environment, within the context of the current development of a “Murray Darling Basin Plan” under the framework of Australia’s 2007 Water Act. Recommendations from the workshop include the preparation of a case study of the experiences in the MDB on predicting, managing and adapting to global change, including the changing climate, and including in relation to Ramsar commitments on wise use and the maintenance of ecological character. The workshop also identified the need to a) better assess the range and distribution of all types of wetlands throughout the Basin; and b) to better assess the range and value of ecosystem services currently and formerly delivered by difference wetlands in the Basin.

In addition, a range of related issues emerged from the workshop discussions relevant to the STRP’s current tasks concerning defining ecological character, including at the point of Ramsar site designation, and how best to respond to maintaining ecological character in a naturally highly variable water environment and how this relates to establishing ‘limits of acceptable change’ in ecological character of such wetlands.

Report by: Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General

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