Protecting the Great Artesian Basin Springs

The Great Artesian Basin Springs are irreplaceable – a habitat for fish, snails, crustaceans and plants that occur nowhere else on the planet. Sadly, the springs, which are mostly located in South Australia and Queensland, have been severely impacted by water extraction. UQ researchers are now working to quantify their value and assess future impacts to protect them.

Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences have developed a publicly accessible database derived from extensive field surveys, identifying the springs’ location, impacts, physical characteristics, cultural values and biological values. This has resulted in a large national park extension – the protection of the most significant site for the springs – and many legally binding nature refuges have been created.

The GABSI bore capping program has been redirected to benefit high-value spring wetlands. Critically, government policy has been refocused on groundwater extraction, given the potential effects of coal and coal seam gas extraction. The leader of this research program was an expert witness for the legal proceedings assessing impacts of a major mining proposal.

The research is also represented in the on-ground management of springs, including directing government programs for spring conservation and for the recovery of the red-finned blue-eye, Australia’s rarest fish that only occurs in spring wetlands managed by Bush Heritage Australia.

Image: Greg Rinder/CSIRO

Project lead