Aquatic ecosystems

Darwin Harbour and marine environments

Information about the Darwin Harbour, marine habitats and animals, including results and trends in water quality monitoring.

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For information about water quality monitoring in Darwin Harbour refer to our Darwin Harbour water monitoring page.

The water quality of Darwin Harbour is regularly monitored to test that it meets standards needed to protect environmental, recreational and cultural values.

The monitoring program includes ambient environmental monitoring of the harbour and its waterways, as well as water quality testing at beaches used for swimming.

The Darwin Harbour Report Cards provide a snapshot of water quality and the health of aquatic ecosystems across the harbour and its catchment.

The Northern Territory (NT) has one of the world's most intact marine environments so it is important to protect its marine and coastal biodiversity.

The health of marine biodiversity in Darwin Harbour is monitored by mapping and characterising underwater habitats, monitoring seagrass habitats, dolphins and marine turtles.

The Northern Territory Government and INPEX partnership to create an integrated Marine Monitoring and Research Program.

The Darwin Harbour Advisory Committee provides advice to the Northern Territory Government through the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources on the effective management of Darwin Harbour and its catchment.

For more information about the committee, its members, the strategy and keep informed by subscribing to their bulletin go to the committee's site.


Freshwater ecosystems

Information about the river and creek health, including the monitoring of water quality, fish and aquatic plants and animals.

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To help protect the health of our rivers, annual river health monitoring is conducted in selected Top End catchments.

For the latest monitoring information, go to our interactive monitoring map for the Daly and Roper Rivers or read about monitoring in Rapid Creek and Central Australia.

The Daly/Roper River health monitoring program takes place every dry season.

For the latest monitoring information you will need to logon to the Northern Territory Government's arcGIS.

Rapid Creek is a small, relatively natural drainage system located in Darwin's Northern suburbs.

Annual monitoring of stream health is currently undertaken in Rapid Creek during the transition from wet to dry season.

The Northern Territory Government contributes to monitoring the health of the Lake Eyre Basin. Read more about the management of the basin http://www.agriculture.gov.au/water/national/lake-eyre-basin

Magpie Goose management program

The Magpie Goose is an abundant Northern Territory waterbird, with the Northern Territory (NT) supporting the world's largest population and major breeding areas.

Review the reports published as part of the NT Government's Magpie Goose management program.

Saltwater Crocodile management program

Review the reports published as part of the NT Government's Saltwater Crocodile management program.


Groundwater-dependent ecosystems

Information about springs and desert waterholes that are groundwater-fed, including fish monitoring.

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Dive into our interactive story about these unique freshwater systems and habitats.


River health in the Top End

Our rivers are loved by Territorians and visitors for their natural beauty and great fishing; they support cultural values, tourism, agriculture and development in the region. To help protect the health of our rivers, annual river health monitoring is conducted in selected Top End catchments.

For the latest monitoring information, go to our interactive monitoring map for the Daly and Roper Rivers or read about monitoring in Rapid Creek and Central Australia.

“Cause and effect” monitoring

River health monitoring is based on a "cause and effect" model and ideally includes three levels of indicators:

  • pressures
  • stressors and
  • ecological responses.

Pressures are human activities that are the underlying cause of changes in the health of the environment, while stressors are the physical or chemical changes that occur due to these pressures.

The ecological response is the effect these changes have on the plants and animals in the ecosystem.

The ecological response is the effect these changes have on the plants and animals in the ecosystem.

For example, a change in land use from a natural environment to agriculture (pressure) may cause an increase in nutrients in an adjacent creek (stressor) and lead to an increase in algal growth (ecological response).

Several stressors often combine to affect biological indicators. For example, aquatic plant growth is determined by three main environmental factors:

  • flow
  • nutrients and
  • light.

Conditions have to be favourable for all three of these factors to cause an impact on aquatic plant and algal growth.

Conditions have to be favourable for all three of these factors to cause an impact on aquatic plant and algal growth.


Daly and Roper River health monitoring program

The Daly/Roper River health monitoring program takes place every dry season.

During the dry the rivers are most vulnerable to impacts from groundwater pollution and water extraction.

There are 21 freshwater sites that are monitored mid dry season when flow conditions are stable and flow is supplied by groundwater.

The program measures indicators from each of the three levels of the cause and effect model. Read about river health in the Top End.

The indicators are as follows:

  • biological indicators are the most critical to detect actual impacts on the ecosystem
  • stressor indicators, such as water quality and toxicants can provide early warning of potential changes
  • pressure indicators are important to inform the adaptive management of aquatic ecosystems, pressures can be directly influenced by management actions.

For the latest monitoring information you will need to logon to the Northern Territory Government's arcGIS.


Aquatic pests

It is illegal to release aquarium fish and aquatic plants into freshwater waterways in the Northern Territory (NT).

Releasing non-native fish and plants, or the water they have been living in, threatens the NT's freshwater ecosystems.

For more information on non-native plants, fish and snails go to the NT Government's page on freshwater pests.