Aquatic ecosystem monitoring, evaluation and reporting (AECRs)
The EPA monitors South Australian waters (creeks, rivers, marine) in order to assess their condition and provide information that can be used to guide management decisions.
Monitoring data are used to produce aquatic ecosystem condition reports (AECRs) every year. There are reports available for creeks, rivers and nearshore marine waters.
The AECRs are also used to inform both the State of the Environment (SOE) reporting and the South Australian Environmental Trend and Condition Report Cards published by the Department for Environment and Water (DEW).
The SOE reports focus on statewide trends and the Trend and Condition Report Cards on statewide and NRM region-wide conditions, while AECRs address individual ecosystems. The AECRs may show localised areas of good or poor condition that are not visible at the statewide level.
The EPA has released a context and overview report which outlines the main reasons why there is a need to assess aquatic ecosystems, review the equivalent approaches adopted elsewhere and propose a way forward which covers all natural waters in South Australia using the aquatic ecosystem monitoring, evaluation and reporting program.
The Report on subsurface groundwater ecosystems presents the EPA’s perspective and discusses possible policy implications and outlines an approach that will generate new knowledge about the ecosystem services that are provided by stygofauna and microbial communities in groundwaters in South Australia.
A total of 21 sites were sampled in the South East. The condition of sites sampled repeatedly tended to remain the same over time.
The better condition sites were small coastal creeks in the lower South East, which support all of the significant aquatic invertebrates for the region. Further northwards and inland, all creek and drain sites are located in agricultural landscapes and consequently were in poorer condition, only supporting generalist and tolerant aquatic invertebrates. As with 2014, all drains and creeks sampled in 2019 showed evidence of nutrient enrichment (nitrogen in particular), such as large growths of filamentous algae, phytoplankton and/or aquatic plants present at each site.
A total of 32 monitoring sites were sampled over 5 marine biounits located on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula. In areas remote from human settlements, condition is largely unchanged from the 2014 assessment. However, sites close to human settlements were impacted by excess nutrients and in most cases these locations are getting worse. Some sites are now classified as being in 'Very Poor' condition, the worst condition on the AECR scale.
The nearshore marine biounits assessed in 2019 were:
Sites have typically lost seagrass and any remaining seagrass was being smothered by algae and in poor condition. These locations are under pressure from multiple sources including urban stormwater, high densities of septic tanks, agricultural runoff and discharge of nutrient-rich groundwater. Many of these townships are located in sheltered bays with restricted flushing, where pollutants can accumulate.
What are Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports?
AECRs provide a comprehensive picture of the ecological condition of sites sampled in creeks and lakes, and rate each site on a scale from Excellent through to Very Poor using an ecological condition gradient.
Check out what data is collected and how the sites are rated in the information sheet on EPA Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports
How often are AECRs released?
Reports are released annually presenting assessments of sites sampled previously.
What data or information is used to create a report?
A range of biological, chemical and physical information is recorded at each sampling site including nutrients, salinity, dissolved oxygen, water temperature, algal growth, macroinvertebrate data, aquatic vegetation coverage, riparian vegetation coverage and sediment type and condition. Further information on the data collected and how it is used is provided in the information sheet EPA Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports.
Do other states produce similar reports?
Report cards of a similar nature have been produced in other states as a means of assessing the ecological and water quality condition of waters in their regions. Queensland and Victoria have report cards assessing the ecological and water quality condition, and New South Wales has report cards based on water quality data only.
What do the different ratings mean?
The ratings provide information on the ecological condition of each site. Sites are rated on a scale between Excellent and Very Poor using an ecological condition gradient. These ratings are explained in more detail in the information sheet EPA Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports.
Can I download any raw data?
Water quality measurements, habitat data and a list of macroinvertebrates found at each site is available for downloading on this website and through WaterConnect.
Are there any technical reports that explain the scientific methods?
- Methods report for the inland waters ecosystems monitoring, evaluation and reporting program
- Methods report for the nearshore marine ecosystems monitoring, evaluation and reporting program – Addendum
- Information sheet defining reference condition for South Australian streams.
Where can I find definitions for some of the words used?
A glossary has been provided with explanations and definitions of the some of the more technical terminology.
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