Future Earth Coasts

Threats to Biodiversity in Australia’s Burdekin River Basin
Pictured: The Burdekin Falls Dam, built in 1987, the largest dam in Queensland, Australia. ©CSIRO

Prof Eric Wolanski, a FEC Academy member currently working at the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) at James Cook University, Australia, shared with us a recently published opinion paper on the future of the Burdekin River basin.

In this piece, Prof Wolanski explains how this river basin is suffering from environmental degradation from historical, haphazard developments without integrated planning.

Among other issues is the fact that downstream is the Cape Bowling Green, a peninsula maintained by the balance between the incoming sand from the river and the coastal erosion. However, the Burdekin Falls dam is depriving the coast of new sediment and a projection predicts the peninsula is likely to erode and breach. This is likely to affect the wetlands in Bowling Green Bay which resident and migratory birds rely on.

With business case studies for raising the height of the Burdekin Falls Dam and for building three new dams, the author calls for a shift in the way Australia’s river systems are planned. Prof Wolanski encourages assessments that consider the cumulative effects of the proposed changes rather than looking at each factor independently.

Read the full paper: Burdekin 2021.

[Eric Wolanski. Threats to Biodiversity in Australia’s Burdekin River Basin. Biodiversity Online J. 1(3). BOJ.000513.2021.]

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