Conceptualising hydro-socio-ecological relationships ensures more integrated and inclusive environmental flows assessments

Michael Douglas, Sue E. Jackson, Caroline Canham, Sarah Laborde, Leah Beesley, Mark J. Kennard, Brad Pusey, Robyn Loomes, Samantha Setterfield

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemera


Increasingly, environmental flow assessments (e-flows) are being used to address the threat to rivers and human communities posed by flow alteration. Conceptual models that underpin e-flows tend to include only biophysical interactions however, eschewing socio-cultural complexity, local eco-hydrological knowledge and governance matters. These dimensions are especially important where Indigenous people have strong connections with rivers. We used a transdisciplinary approach to develop a conceptual model based on published information on ecological values and a wider set of values held by Indigenous peoples of the west Kimberley, Australia. The conceptual model demonstrated the need to maintain hydrological connectivity to support hydro-ecological values and Indigenous use for food and amenity, and to meet religious responsibilities. Our process identified the need to recognise Indigenous and non-indigenous governance and management systems at multiple scales to build legitimacy in the e-flows process. We used the model to distill propose guiding principles for using e-flows to protect aquatic ecosystems and their dependent human cultures and livelihoods. We are now undertaking targeted field research to address gaps identified through this process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventEcological Society of Australia - Launceston, Australia
Duration: 24 Nov 201929 Nov 2019


ConferenceEcological Society of Australia
Internet address


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