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The Lower Lakes Independent Science Review

The Lower Lakes are an important environmental, social and economic national asset. The significance of the wetlands is internationally recognised supporting endangered migratory birds, threatened wildlife and rare plants. The Lower Lakes has economic significance and is a well-used recreation area, and the region has significant importance for the Ngarrindjeri people.

The science of South Australia’s Lower Lakes is being reviewed by an independent team led by Australia’s lead science agency, CSIRO.

The review will address the following key questions:

  1. What are the various scientific perspectives on the past and current hydrology and salinity of the Lower Lakes and how have the lakes come to be managed in the way they are?
  2. What would be the likely regional social, environmental and economic implications of removing the barrages, and would this result in significant water savings?
  3. What knowledge needs are required to plan for the main social, environmental and economic vulnerabilities of the Lower Lakes to climate change?

The independent experts will review and synthesise existing scientific and technical information and will consult with key researchers and identified stakeholders to understand the full range of views.

Some of the many studies that will be reviewed include:

The Review team is expected to publish their report in Q2 2020.

Review Team

The review will be led by Dr Francis Chiew of CSIRO.

Dr Francis Chiew has more than 25 years’ experience in research, teaching and consulting, and in science leadership and management. Dr Chiew is globally recognised for his expertise in hydroclimate, hydrological modelling and integrated river basin management, and his research is widely adopted and cited. Dr Chiew and his team have led many major hydroclimate initiatives and water resources assessment projects, informing water resources planning and adaptation in Australia and globally. Dr Chiew is a member of several global and national water expert committees including lead author of 2 Assessment Reports for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Supporting panel members:

Ms Jennifer Hale is an aquatic ecologist with expertise in wetland, riverine and estuarine systems with over 30 years of experience in the management of aquatic ecosystems. She has extensive knowledge of the Ramsar Convention and its application to the management of wetlands in Australia. She was one of three leaders of the technical review panel for Ramsar documentation and was involved in the development of guidance on implementation of the Convention including on the definition of Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) and change in ecological character. Jennifer has acted as an advisor on Ramsar wetlands for State and Australian governments and has recently completed a review of the effect of large-scale drivers on ecological character.

Dr Michael Reid is a senior lecturer in Geography and Planning at the University of New England. He has more than 20 years of experience in research focusing on understanding pattern and process in floodplain and river ecosystems across a range of spatial and temporal scales and on understanding how human activities impact river ecosystems. This focus requires interdisciplinary research and expertise in palaeoecology, food web ecology, floodplain and aquatic vegetation community ecology, geomorphology, hydrology and ecohydrology. Michael is the current president of the Australian Freshwater Sciences Society.

Dr Klaus Joehnk is leading the Modelling Water Ecosystems team in CSIRO Land and Water. He has over 20 years of experience in research and consultancy on hydrodynamic and water quality modelling of lakes and rivers. Klaus and his team are leading work on combining hydrodynamic and water quality modelling with satellite remote sensing of inland waters for operational short-term forecasting of water quality and building integrated simulation tools for assessing ecological outcomes of inland water management. Klaus serves on the editorial board for Ecological Informatics Journal and is a committee member of the Australian Water

Dr Ian Webster is an Independent consultant. Dr Webster is an expert in physical oceanography, coastal lakes and processes, hydrodynamic modelling and biogeochemical modelling. Dr Webster was a senior principal research scientist in CSIRO until he retired in 2012. Dr Webster is well known in Australia and overseas for his scientific leadership of multidisciplinary projects that support the management of lakes, rivers and estuaries. Dr Webster has a deep knowledge of the Lower Lakes, having developed the hydrodynamic model for the Coorong for assessing the effectiveness of salinity amelioration measures.


Updated: 15 Jan 2020