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Hyporheic Research / Australian Government

Research to inform the assessment of ecohydrological responses to groundwater drawdown

The Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy (Office of Water Science) commissioned a a multidisciplinary consortium led by Griffith University and including Subterranean Ecology Pty Ltd, the University of New South Wales, Edith Cowan University and Yorb Pty Ltd, to conduct a two year study on the ecological importance of groundwater. We used a suite of methods to investigate how groundwater supports stream ecosystem processes and fauna, including hyporheos and stygofauna, vegetation and Great Artesian Basin spring wetlands. The full research report completed in December 2016 outlines the key implications for environmental impact assessment and monitoring, particularly for coal seam gas extraction and coal mining. The report is available on the Office of Water Science website. Click here to access the research report.

The project involved an integrated programme of research that addressed key elements within each of four major components: (1) Ecohydrology of groundwater dependent terrestrial vegetation; (2) Ecological values of base-flow and surface water-groundwater connectivity regimes in non-perennial streams; (3) Hydrogeochemistry, biogeochemical processes and the hyporheos / stygofauna; (4) Composition and resilience of Great Artesian Basin spring communities.   Click here to access the research project flyer.

Component 3 was undertaken by Subterranean Ecology and the University of New South Wales Connected Waters Research Initiative Centre. This component aimed to understand how changes in hyporheic exchange and biogeochemical conditions affect the ecological conditions for hyporheos and stygofauna, and the processing of organic matter and nutrients. Components 2 and 3 looked at how changes in hydrology, especially groundwater drawdown, affect organic carbon cycling, nutrient cycling, redox biogeochemical and microbial processes.

The research components were scoped at a workshop in July 2014 and published in a report titled Modelling water-related ecological responses to coal seam gas extraction and coal mining. Click here to access the 2014 workshop report.