A recently-published series of NASA Earth Observatory false-colour satellite images showing water filling the Diamantina River and flowing towards Lake Eyre following a period of heavy rain in northern Queensland was printed in The Advertiser.
The Lake Eyre Basin (LEB) is the largest river basin in Australia covering around 1.2 million km2 in the arid region or 15% of the Australian landmass. The mean annual rainfall and runoff is the lowest of any major river basin in the world but periodic large and widespread flooding results in broad scale inundation of wetland habitats.
University of Adelaide scientist and Goyder Institute researcher Dr Ken Clarke was interviewed for the blog. He explained what happens during this 'pulse of green' and detailed how vegetation in the LEB responds to inundation, citing his 2015 research report Spatial Indicators of Ecological Condition for Lake Eyre Basin.
“Ephemeral sedges, reeds, and grasses germinate while the floodplain is inundated,” Dr Clarke told NASA. “The whole life cycle of these species has evolved to take advantage of occasional, short pulses of floodwaters. As the waters recede, the plants finish growing, flower, and set seed - all before the moisture in the soil has been exhausted.”
The research Dr Clarke referred to has significantly contributed to LEB assessment reports. Under the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Act (2001), the Ministerial Forum must undertake a review of the condition of all watercourses and catchments within the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement Area - in the form of an assessment report.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has recently completed a public consultation process within and outside the Lake Eyre Basin Area, on behalf of the Lake Eyre Basin jurisdictions, for a second review of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement.