Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems

Oranje Creativeres-page, Research Capabilities

During periods of low rainfall, some ecosystems rely on groundwater to support their water needs. These ecosystems can be affected when groundwater extraction causes a decline in the water table.

NCGRT researchers have been working in field sites throughout Australia to examine water table depths accessed by vegetation, the magnitude of water table drawdown, and its influence on vegetation stress signs, and mortality. We have also been studying spring ecosystems in South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, and assessing sources of water for springflow and potential impacts of groundwater extraction, and mapping sites of submarine groundwater discharge to the South Australian coastline and to coastal lagoons in southern Europe. Our researchers are also examining groundwater management tools and how these can be used to protect GDEs.

Our researchers have expertise in measurement and interpretation of leaf water potentials for assessing vegetation health and access to water sources; isotope methods for assessing sources of water used by trees and sources of groundwater flow to springs and surface waters; sapflow, Bowen Ration and eddy covariance systems for measuring plant water use and regional evapotranspiration; and analysis of bore hydrographs for measuring tree water use in shallow water table areas.

Selected Publications

Dyring M, Hofmann H, Stanton D, Moss P, and Froend, R (2022) Ecohydrology of coastal aquifers in humid environments and implications of a drying climate. Ecohydrology, 16, 2491.

Canham CA, Duvert C, Beesley LS, Douglas MM, Setterfield SA, Freestone FL, Clohessy S, and Loomes RC (2021) The use of regional and alluvial groundwater by riparian trees in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia. Hydrological Processes, 35, 14180.

Burrows RM, Rutlidge H, Valdez D, Vernarsky M, Bond N, Andersen MS, Fry B, Eberhard S, and Kennard MJ (2018) Groundwater supports intermittent stream food webs. Freshwater Science, 37, 42-53.

Nolan RH, Tarin T, Rumman R, Cleverly J, Fairweather KA, Zolfaghar S, Santini NS, O'Grady AP, and Eamus D (2018) Contrasting ecophysiology of two widespread arid zone tree species with differing access to water resources. Journal of Arid Environments, 153, 1-10.

Zolfaghar S, Villalobos-Vega R, Zeppel M, Cleverly J, Rumman R, Hingee M, Boulain N, Li Z, Eamus D, and Tognetti R (2017) Transpiration of Eucalyptus woodlands across a natural gradient of depth-to-groundwater. Tree Physiology, 37, 961-975.

Eamus D, Zolfaghar S, Villalobos-Vega R, Cleverly J, and Huete A (2015) Groundwater-dependent ecosystems: Recent insights from satellite and field-based studies. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 19, 4229-4256.