The Gippsland Lakes: Management challenges posed by long-term environmental change

Paul Ian Boon, Perran Cook, Ryan Woodland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Gippsland Lakes, listed under the Ramsar Convention in 1982, have undergone chronic salinisation since the cutting in 1889 of an artificial entrance to the ocean to improve navigational access, exacerbated in the mid-late 20th century by increasing regulation and extraction of water from inflowing rivers. Both developments have had substantial ecological impacts: a marked decline in the area of reed (Phragmites australis) beds; the loss of salt-intolerant submerged taxa such as Vallisneria australis, causing a shift to a phytoplankton-dominated system in Lake Wellington; and, nearer the entrance, an expansion in the area of seagrasses. Mangroves (Avicennia marina) first appeared in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Since 1986 recurring blooms of Nodularia spumigena have led to loss of recreational amenity and to the periodic closure of recreational and commercial fisheries. Changes to hydrological and salinity regimes have almost certainly shifted the contemporary fish community away from the pre-entrance state. Rises in eustatic sea levels and increases in storm surges will exacerbate the issue of chronic salinisation. Whether or not managers choose to intervene to prevent, or at least minimise, ongoing environmental change will inevitably prove controversial, and in some cases no socially or technologically feasible solutions may exist. Journal compilation

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-737
Number of pages17
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Volume67
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • cyanobacteria
  • estuary
  • eutrophication
  • fish
  • salinisation
  • wetland

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