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7Information Gaps, Monitoring and Education

7.1Information Gaps


The ECD preparation process promotes the identification of information or knowledge gaps about the Ramsar site. In the context of the identified critical services/benefits, components and processes in this ECD, Table 7 -28 summarises the key information and knowledge gaps. Other information gaps are discussed below.
Table 7 28 Summary of information/knowledge gaps

Description of Wetland Element

Description of Information/Knowledge Gap

Critical Components

C1. Mangroves

  • Some limited data exists. An adequate baseline describing the extent of different mangrove community types across the site is needed to assess future changes to ecological character over time.

C2. Melaleuca forest

  • Some limited data exists for Magela floodplain, but there are few data for other parts of the site. An adequate baseline describing temporal patterns in Melaleuca forest extent is required for the whole of the Park to assess future changes to ecological character over time.

C3. Palustrine wetlands and billabongs

  • Some limited data exists for certain areas. An adequate baseline describing temporal patterns in the extent of palustrine wetland communities and billabongs for the whole of the Park to assess future changes to ecological character over time.

C4. Waterfalls, seeps and waterholes

  • There is a need to document the location of all these features at a whole of site scale. Furthermore, there is a need to quantify flow patterns and water requirements of representative and/or important wetland in order to (i) determine baseline conditions; and (ii) determine potential sensitivity to any future changes in hydrology.

C5. Populations of migratory and resident waterbirds

  • The relationship between coastal use by tourists and disturbance to shorebirds, particularly when at high tide roosts, is unknown.

  • There have not been regular counts for migratory and resident waterbirds since listing across the full range of wetland habitat types.

C6. Populations of freshwater fish

  • Some limited data exists for particular habitats but no broad scale data sets are available across the range of wetland habitats. There is a need to develop baseline data describing patterns in fish abundance and species richness at a range of sites within representative wetland habitat types. This will enable an assessment of any future changes to ecological character.

C7. Populations of freshwater and saltwater crocodiles

  • There is limited information on the current status of freshwater crocodile populations in the site, particularly in the context of impacts of cane toads. Furthermore, systematic data describing the relative abundance of crocodiles (standardised by sampling effort) in representative habitats is required to assess any future changes to ecological character.

C8. Populations of threatened sharks

  • No available data on the basic life-history of these species, including dependency on estuarine and freshwater environments.

  • Limited available data on shark abundance and distribution within the site.

  • An adequate baseline is needed to identify any future changes in the distribution and abundance of these species over time and space.

C9. Yellow chat populations

  • There are no systematic data describing the distribution and abundance of this species within the Park. An adequate baseline is needed to identify any future changes in the distribution and abundance of this species over time and space.

C10. Pig-nosed turtle populations

  • There are no systematic data describing the distribution and abundance of this species within the Park. An adequate baseline is needed to identify any future changes in the distribution and abundance of this species over time and space.

C11. Locally endemic invertebrate species

  • There are no systematic data describing the distribution and abundance of this species within the Park. An adequate baseline is needed to identify any future changes in the distribution and abundance of this species over time and space.

Critical Processes

P1. Fluvial hydrology

  • With the exception of a study by Hess and Melack (2003) which had limited spatial and temporal context, there are few empirical data describing patterns in variability in estuary size and floodplain inundation area within the site. An adequate baseline is needed to identify any future changes in estuary extent over time and space.

P2. Fire regimes

  • Studies have assessed fire regimes over time and impacts on vegetation communities; however, continued monitoring of fire regimes is required especially in terms of responses of new weed species to fire.

P3. Breeding and migration of waterbirds

  • There is a lack of a comprehensive and integrated map of breeding areas for key waterbird species.

  • Refer to gaps identified in C5.

P4. Flatback turtle nesting

  • Flatback turtle nesting is monitored annually by Parks Australia. There are no critical information gaps in the context of relevant LACs.

Critical Services/Benefits

S1. Biodiversity – Support of threatened fauna

  • There is a general lack of suitable surveys for the threatened species within the site, including empirical data on abundance and general life history data for species such as the river sharks.

  • There are currently no formal species-level monitoring programs that measure trends in abundance, or responses of these species to designated management actions of the threatened species (see review Fischer and Woinarski 2007).

  • Refer to critical components above for data requirements.

S2. Fisheries resource values (especially barramundi)

  • There are no available data describing patterns in barramundi abundance over time or within other areas of the Ramsar site (other than the two targeted billabongs sampled by eriss). An adequate baseline is needed to identify any future changes in the distribution and abundance of this species over time and space.

S3. Contemporary living culture

  • Many cultural elements are undocumented, including cultural practices and knowledge, some languages and much spirituality (which may be inappropriate to record).

Key information gaps also exist in terms of the impacts of key threatening processes. In particular, there is little empirical data describing the impacts of non-indigenous fauna (particularly cane toads) on native fauna populations. The relationship between the population density of non-indigenous herbivorous species and landscape/ecosystem damage is also poorly understood.

Data management and dissemination also represents a key data limitation. Information and data from survey and monitoring programs resides in a variety of forms which is widely scattered and, in many cases, difficult to access. Substantive support is required to develop a consolidated information management system for the site which will support effective biodiversity monitoring through making existing information generally accessible and providing a mechanism for storage and dissemination of ‘new’ data and information.

In addition to the above, it should also be recognised that eriss publishes a biennial assessment of key knowledge needs based on the recommendations of ARRTC (Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee). The latest publications covering the periods 2004 to 2006 and 2007 to 2008 outline specific priorities related to existing mining operations and more broad scale monitoring needs for the Alligator Rivers Region. Some of the priorities and objectives relevant to the Ramsar values of the site that should be considered in addition to the gaps outlined above include (refer Appendix 3A and 3B in Jones and Webb 2009):



  • Reassessment of current threats, including surface water transport of radionuclides that could pose human health risks to the Aboriginal population eating bush tucker.

  • Review and assess ecological risks via the surface water pathways, including risks of bioaccumulation and trophic transfer.

  • Investigate diffuse contamination of groundwater, particularly into irrigation areas adjacent to the Magela Creek.

  • Investigate wetland filters, particularly the ability/capacity of filters to remove metals from the water column and protect downstream environments.

  • Continue ecotoxicology research and assessment in relation to uranium toxicity to local native species.

  • Landscape-scale analysis of impact to detect possible impacts from mining to be distinguished from those arising from other causes and/or natural variability.

  • Continue to monitor and rehabilitate former mine sites of the South Alligator River valley, noting that existing monitoring of these sites currently occurs and the results reported to Parks Australia.
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