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Integrated Science Support for Managing Australia's Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Daly River Catchment - Final Report for The Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Consortium

Pantus, Francis, Barton, Cathie L., Bradford, Lindsay and Stroet, Martin (2011). Integrated Science Support for Managing Australia's Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Daly River Catchment - Final Report for The Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Consortium<br />. Darwin, NT: Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Research Report
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar

Author Pantus, Francis
Barton, Cathie L.
Bradford, Lindsay
Stroet, Martin
Title of Report Integrated Science Support for Managing Australia's Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Daly River Catchment - Final Report for The Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Consortium
Publication Date 2011
ISBN 978-1-921576-42-3   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Publisher Charles Darwin University
Place of Publication Darwin, NT
Total Pages 164
Field of Research 300800 Environmental Sciences

Project 1.4 is part of TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge) and is entitled “Knowledge
Integration and Science Delivery”. Project 1.4 has two main aims:

1. To integrate the knowledge that is being developed across the TRaCK program.
2. To use that integrated knowledge to deliver science into the management domain.

Assisted by consultation with both internal and external stakeholders, Project 1.4 has developed concepts, methods and tools that deliver such knowledge in the form of scenario evaluation capacity to a range of stakeholders, particularly in support of natural resource management. The approach adopted is based on a conceptual framework known as Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE).

Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE)

The structure and behaviour of the MSE application described in this report is based on an MSE conceptual framework. Founded on the principals of adaptive management, the framework consists of six functional areas, representing a classification of typical activities that are part of (adaptive) resource management. The MSE application implements the framework as a model- based  computational tool that allows managers, policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the  potential trade-offs of particular management procedures. An application of MSE to a resource management case makes no attempt to find an optimal management strategy, instead it provides a  means by which managers and policy makers can inform their decisions with ‘best available science’. This is achieved by dealing explicitly with uncertainties and systematically presenting a clear set
of trade-offs between various management options.

MSE and the Daly River Catchment

The Daly River catchment is located in the Northern Territory and is one of Australia’s largest  tropical river catchments with an area of about 53,000km2. Being located in the wet-dry tropical region, the catchment experiences high rainfall volumes in the wet season and very little in the dry season. However, despite the dry season, the Daly River is a perennial river that continues to  flow throughout the year. Dry season flow is due to groundwater discharge, the source of which is two major limestone aquifer systems. Within the Daly River catchment, all species of flora and fauna (including humans) depend upon water to sustain life. This dependence upon water is particularly critical in the dry season when demand for water is high. Consumptive demand (e.g. for agricultural production, human consumption, industry and stock needs) is competing against non-consumptive demand (e.g. ecosystem, cultural and recreational needs). Consumptive demands in the catchment are growing rapidly and are typically met by pumping groundwater from extraction bores. The Northern Territory Government is in the process of developing, implementing and managing Water Allocation Plans (WAPs). These Plans seek to control the volume of water extracted from the  Daly aquifer systems.

In order to demonstrate the potential of the MSE application, an MSE prototype application for the Daly River catchment has been developed. The MSE application is comprised of six main models (conforming to the six functional areas of the MSE framework) configured with sub- models and data pertinent to the Daly river catchment. The sub-models include a catchment water model, groundwater model, economics model, habitat model, WAP decision model, and relationship learning model.

The Daly River MSE application provides resource managers with a powerful tool in which to compose and simulate potential management strategies with great flexibility in development and analysis. Management strategies can include (but are not limited to) reducing/increasing groundwater extraction and facilitating economic growth trajectories. The Daly MSE application presents trade-offs between economic, social and environmental (triple bottom line) performance indicators and associated uncertainties. Resource managers are able to weigh these trade-offs (and uncertainties) and make decisions accordingly as they strive to achieve a balance between ecosystem/cultural needs and economic/ human needs.


Results from projects that have a methodological purpose, such as the one reported in this document, differ from the more conventional science reports in that the results are not so much expressed in tables and graphs but more in terms of capability. The results of the Knowledge Integration and Science Delivery project can be grouped around the level of science integration achieved for the TRaCK program and the capability and tools to deliver that integrated science effectively into natural resource management in the form of management scenario evaluation.

The project achieved its goal in demonstrating MSE utility in terms of triple bottom line performance indicators. These management scenario evaluations can be based on integrated knowledge from various TRaCK science projects, notably economics, fish habitat, fish stocks, surface and groundwater hydrology and indigenous harvest. The project also achieved its goals in integrating the science knowledge domain with the management knowledge domain resulting in models for water licensing, groundwater water allocation rules, and groundwater extractions being applied to the models mentioned in the previous sentence. This has been achieved in close collaboration with Government. Currently a trial is underway where NT water managers are examining the MSE tools and their application within their organisation.

In terms of delivering management scenario evaluation capability: the software tools that were developed and configured around the Daly catchment allow a high level of flexibility. The detailed user interface brings this capability to a much broader range of potential users, albeit with appropriate training. The main objective of the MSE is to examine a broad range of management options in relatively short time. The software application achieves that goal, including the assessment of a range of uncertainties.


The potential of MSE concepts and their implementation to help structure the integration between the domains of natural resource management and science has been demonstrated in this report. The broad MSE concepts have been translated into structured processes and tangible tools to support the complex task of natural resource management with the best available science. The results of this project provide a firm start on the road to a stronger synthesis-oriented approach in collaboration between science and management.
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Created: Mon, 07 Mar 2016, 15:12:48 CST by Marion Farram