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Preliminary Senior Science – Research Assignment

Part 1 – Murray River

Darshil Shah

The Murray River is Australia’s largest and most developed river system. It is a
water source for millions of people in Australia and is a showcase of the unique
Australian flora and fauna. Over years, developments have been made to make the
Murray River more reliable for water supply but the natural ecology has changed
dramatically due to these changes.

Salinity is a natural feature in many Australian environments. A natural amount is


needed to maintain the water table; however human activities along with drought and
other factors (such as the
flat ground) have
increased the salt level
and with that increasing
of the water table.
Salinity in the short term
is affecting agriculture,
the water quality and the
native animals and plants.
In the future, if it is not
solved the water source
will be unsuitable for any
use, along with causing
countless damages to
wildlife, urban developments, rural communities and the water demand across South
and East Australia. Even though it takes millions of years to naturally accumulate salt,
humans have boosted the process and in the next 50 years, the Murray River along
with all other related streams will be in the highest threat of being destroyed and lost
forever.
Another great impact on the Murray River is Blue-Green Algae. Algae are a natural
part of Australian river system, however they bloom when there is an increase of
nutrients while the river flow decreases. The blue-green algae are often an indicator
which shows the
river system is
imbalanced.
When the
bacteria found in
the blue-green
algae breaks
down, it releases
poisonous toxins
and consumes a
large amount of
oxygen levels.
Because of
deprived oxygen levels the fish and the other aquatic stress out, which often leads to
death. These blue-green algae are also a major threat to humans and other land
animals (i.e. stock). They harm health and make drinking water more difficult to
obtain. Algal blooms do not take long to form, however once the form, they can
spread rapidly and eradicating them is very long and difficult process. Thus, it does
not take long for the consequences to appear. Immediate effects of the blue-green
algae include oxygen deprivation, odour, and the undesirable taste. However, the
future consequences are far more dramatic. They can destroy delicate and endangered
aquatic systems as they kill and harm many of the animals which rely on clean water
and steady oxygen supply. It affects the water quality and is dangerous to animals and
humans as it causes liver damage, stomach problems and unfortunately in some cases
death.

Turbid water is cloudy and polluted water which results from run-off and human
activities which
increase the sediments
deposited into water
flows. Introduced
species such as the
Carp increased
turbidity by digging
on the riverbed and
increasing sediment to
flow in the water.
Carp can now be
found nearly
everywhere in the
Murray River and
have disturbed the environment forever. Turbid water reduces activities of plants and
animals hence interfering with the food chain. Native fish and animals find it more
difficult to live on turbid water, and water quality deteriorates. Turbid water can
contain many substances and in most cases is the build of phytoplankton and other
sediments due to increased nutrients and waste. The effect will vary across years as
turbid water takes over slowly, but that does not mean it compromises impact on the
Murray River. Immediately, the plants and aquatic organisms receive less sunlight and
water quality is reduced. Over time, turbidity decreases plants that fish feed on which
decreases the amount of native fish. Turbidity has permanently depleted the water
quality and the ecological cycles of the Murray River and other rivers that flow with
it.

There are many efforts to rehabilitate the Murray River as it is clearly in danger. If
nothing is done, then over 50 years the river will only deteriorate along with
destroying native wildlife and decreasing the water supply. The most effective method
in restoring some of the faults in the river system is to introduce environmental
flows. An ‘environmental flow’ is any managed change in a river flow pattern
intended to maintain or improve river health. Environment flows can be achieved
through:
• Making the best use of water currently available to the environment
• Saving water lost in channels and other distribution systems and redirecting it to
the environment; and
• Reducing the amount of water removed from the river for human use.

The impact on the Murray is huge as it will change the river system and restore it as
much as possible to the older, more natural system. It does not affect the wildlife or
the water supply. It effectively uses water and controls the pollution with awareness
and education.
Preliminary Senior Science – Research Assignment
Part 2 – Global Peace Oil Spill (Gladstone QLD)

Darshil Shah

On 24th of January 2006 11:54 pm, 25 tonnes of heavy oil was spilt from the carrier
Global Peace on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area which is
located near Gladstone, Queensland. The spill occurred in result of a collision with a
tugboat Tom Tough which had a failed engine.

The cause of this incident


was the mishandled
tugboat which penetrated
one of Global Peace’s
tanks. This was seen as
the biggest oil spill in 30
years along with the
urgency to recover as past
as possible due to the
extremely endangered
and sensitive Barrier
Reef.

Oil spills are a form of


pollution which disturbs the natural cycle of the environment and releases toxic
chemicals harmful to the wildlife along with water quality. The Port of Gladstone and
surrounding areas contain a number of diverse environments, some of which are
extremely sensitive to the effects of marine pollution. These include large areas of
mangroves and other prominent marine features. The marine environment around
Gladstone is also seen as a habitat for seabirds and waders as well as for turtles,
dolphins and dugong.

In the short term almost everything was affected. The mangroves suffered the most as
the stream spread with waves. The marine ecosystem is delicate especially in this area
due to the proximity of Great Barrier Reef. The oil blocks sunlight and deprives
oxygen levels in the water. Wildlife suffers on the toxic chemicals and often, the result
is death. Luckily, only 1 bird was found dead along with some other animals covered
in oil. When oil is consumed, the digestion system malfunctions and the liver is put
under stress. Birds and reptiles are unable insulate and lose the ability to withstand
temperature fluctuations. Water quality was also affected; however it continues to be
affected in the long term.

In the long term, water quality was affected as oil still remains in the circular flow. It
might not be a concern in other areas, but because this is in the proximity of the Great
Barrier Reef, even the slightest change would affect the fine balance of which the
animals and plants rely on. Local fisheries were impacted as the fish cannot be caught
due to the potential poisoning of oil. However tests showed there was very little effect
due to the type of oil and waves clearing some of the heavy, deadly chemicals away.

Over 8 tonnes were


collected with the help of
Response Teams. When
the oil spill was reported
Maritime Safety
Queensland was
contacted and acted to
send emergency response
teams which help in
immediate visible clean
up of the beach and
wildlife/plants. The
response of the spill
operated for 10 days and
required over 100
personnel. Mainly, after
the response team collected as much as it could, Skimmer vessels were sent to spread
dispersants which reduce the surface tension and stop oil and water from mixing
which allows easy collection. With the most important process completed, scientists
and researchers gathered data to determine the impact and assess future actions.
Thankfully, the oil spill was controlled and damage was minimal. With the help of
response team, the environment did not suffer and the right steps insured the health of
the water and environment for the future years.
Bibliography

http://www.savethemurray.com/facts_pollution.php - Pollution on the Murray


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_River#Locks – Murray River Information
http://www.mdbc.gov.au/ - Rehabilitation
http://www.murrayriverrescue.com.au/aboutdb.php - Facts
http://www.rivermurray.sa.gov.au/major/water_quality.html - Water Quality
http://www.murrayusers.sa.gov.au/PDFs/A_river_in_decline.pdf - Turbidity
http://www.amsa.gov.au/Marine_Environment_Protection/Major_Oil_Spills_in_Austr
alia/Global_Peace/index.asp - Oil Spill
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2006/2006-01-25-02.asp - Oil Spill Newspaper
Report