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Ecohydrology of the Eastern Pilbara

ECU’s Centre for Ecosystem Management has just commenced a new research project on the ecological and hydrological values of the eastern Pilbara region in Western Australia. Funded by BHP Billiton Iron Ore (BHPBIO), the project has the broad aim of understanding where and what the water-related ecological values are within the region: identifying and prioritising the spatial and temporal distribution of ecohydrological assets, and the key linkages necessary to maintain or enhance them. The project will also establish a suite of monitoring parameters to detect unacceptable changes, to help protect the environmental values of the area during the extraction of natural resources. These outcomes will facilitate BHPBIO in their stewardship of water and the connecting environments, feeding directly into their Environmental Water Strategy, and will provide researchers with fundamental insights into the interactions between water and other ecosystem components in an arid and variable environment. Fed primarily by summer cyclones and thunderstorms, the water cycle in the eastern Pilbara shifts from flood to drought with little notice, and with little in between. And yet despite this (or perhaps because of it), the area is rich in ecological assets that are dependent on this most precious resource –groundwater aquifers and springs that support unique invertebrate assemblages, distinct vegetation communities that depend on groundwater resources or periodic sheet flow events, and permanent river pools that sustain fish and waterbirds. Understanding the connections between surface and groundwater systems in this arid region will provide the means to better protect and manage these key ecosystems into the future.

Funding agency

BHP Billiton Iron Ore

Project duration

May 2013 to April 2014


Professor Ray Froend
Dr Jason Coughran
Mrs Jennifer Wilson

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