Professor Richard Kingsford
Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science
Field of Research: 
Conservation biology, wetland and river management
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 3442
Room 5111, Level 5
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052

Aerial Survey of waterbirds in eastern Australia

In October of each year, an aerial survey is run to estimate the abundance of waterbirds in eastern Australia (1983-2004). This collaborative program involves New South Wales as the primary jurisdictional partner, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. This project is one larger surveys of fauna in the world. In October of each year, waterbirds in eastern Australia are counted from the air on about 2000 wetlands (100 hours flying). We are providing one of the country's most important long-term data sets on the health and biodiversity of our river and wetland environments. It is also providing information on up to 50 waterbird species including several threatened species. This information has shown some waterbird populations are in decline (e.g Macquarie Marshes and Lowbidgee wetlands) and is also used for the management of duck shooting seasons in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. Funding is provided by the conservation agencies of the eastern States.

Macquarie Marshes

Good management of river systems is dependent on good information of the ecological responses. A long history of monitoring the breeding of waterbirds in the Macquarie Marshes is producing dividends. The Macquarie Marshes is now established as the most important site in Australia for the breeding of colonial waterbirds (herons, egrets and ibis). The objective of this project is to measure the impacts of changing water regimes on the breeding and abundance of waterbirds in the Macquarie Marshes. The Macquarie Marshes is best known for its large colonies of ibis and egrets. It aims to provide an adaptive management framework for decision-making on environmental flows for the entire river system. One success of different management regimes is the breeding of colonial waterbird species. Funding is provided by the NSW Environmental Trust.

WISE (Water Information System for the Environment)This unique software program was originally developed for the Macquarie-Bogan Catchment as a bibliographic resource with a complete listing of all publicly available material for a catchment. It contains several databases including an environmental subject database cataloguing what type of information is contained in each article or book. For the first time, someone can access everything ever published for the entire catchment, covering all natural and cultural heritage issues. With powerful search routines, people can find subjects of interest with the most up to date information for any wetland, river or creek in the catchment. Publications can be collected and abstracts read to determine if the publication is relevant.

In consultation with community groups, educators, landholders and water managers in the catchments, the WISE software now includes additional detailed information specific to each catchment. It gives an overview of the catchment, its rivers, wetlands, fauna and flora, National Parks and towns in the form of maps, videos, audio clips, oral histories, text files, photographs and now includes a mapping interface. There is also primary source material under the three main key issues identified as important for entire catchment from the analysis of publications. Funding is through the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan.

The databases may be accessed over the internet ( or more complete versions with multimedia are available from the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation.



  • BIOS1301 Ecology, Sustainability and Environmental Science (Course Coordinator)
  • BIOS2061 Vertebrate Zoology (Lecturer) 
  • BIOS6671 Biodiversity and Conservation of Natural Resources (Lecturer)
  • BIOS3091 Marine and Aquatic Ecology (Lecturer)
  • ENVS1011 Environmental Science 1 (Lecturer)
  • GEOS2291 Ground and Surface Water (Lecturer)



Heritage Rivers: new directions for the protection of Australia's high conservation rivers, wetlands and estuaries. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney. 2007(pdf)

Ecology of desert rivers. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (book brochure pdf )

Changing desert rivers.  In Ecology of desert rivers, Kingsford, R.T. (Ed.), pp 3-10. 2006, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Desert or dryland rivers of the world: an introduction.  In Ecology of desert rivers, Kingsford, R.T. (Ed.), pp 336-345. 2006. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Vertebrates of desert rivers: meeting the challenges of temporal and spatial unpredictability. In Ecology of desert rivers, Kingsford, R.T. (Ed.), pp 3-10.  2006. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Impacts of dams, river management and diversions on desert rivers. In Ecology of desert rivers, Kingsford, R.T. (Ed.), pp 203-247. 2006  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Modelling monthly streamflows in two Australian dryland rivers: matching model complexity to spatial scale and data availability. 2006 Journal of Hydrology (in  press)

Flow variability in large unregulated dry rivers.  In Ecology of desert rivers, Kingsford, R.T. (Ed.), pp 47-75. 2006 Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Seed banks in arid wetlands with contrasting flooding, salinity and turbidity regimes. 2006 Plant Ecology (in press)

Urgent need for systematic expansion of freshwater protected areas in Australia.2006 Pacific Conservation Biology 12, 7-14.

Scientists recommend a systematic expansion of freshwater protected areas in Australia.2005 Ecological Management and Restoration 6: 161-163. For a fuller statement representing the views of 40 Australian scientists see the Scientists Consensus Statement (pdf).

Waterbird breeding and environmental flow management in the Macquarie Marshes, arid Australia.2005 Rivers Research and Applications 21, 187-200.

Implications of phylogeography and population genetics for subspecies taxonomy of Grey (Pacific Black) Duck Anas superciliosa and its conservation in New Zealand. 2004 Pacific Conservation Biology 10, 57-66.

Destruction of wetlands and waterbird populations by dams and irrigation on the Murrumbidgee River in arid Australia. 2004 Environmental Management 34, 383-396.

Classifying landform at broad landscape scales: the distribution and conservation of wetlands in New South Wales, Australia.  2004 Marine and Freshwater Research 55, 17-31.

Imposed hydrological stability on lakes in arid Australia and effect on waterbirds.  2004 Ecology 85, 2478-2492.

Social, institutional and economic drivers for water resource development - a case study of the Murrumbidgee River, Australia. 2003 Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 6, 69-79.

Responses of waterbirds to flooding in an arid region of Australia and implications for conservation. 2002 Biological Conservation 106:399-411

Effects of salinity, turbidity and water regime on arid zone wetland seed banks. 2002 Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 28(3), 1468-1471

Australian waterbirds - products of the continent's ecology. 2002 Emu 102, 47-69

Use of satellite image analysis to track wetland loss on the Murrumbidgee River floodplain in arid Australia, 1975-1998. 2002 Water Science and Technology 45(1), 45-53

Continental-scale interactions with temporary resources may explain the paradox of large populations of desert waterbirds in Australia. 2001 Landscape Ecology 16:547-556

Challenges for the conservation of wetlands on the Paroo and Warrego Rivers. 2001 Pacific Conservation Biology 7:21-33

Use of natural and artificial wetlands by Australian waterbirds: implications for population growth and management. 2002 Verh Internat. Verein. Limnol. 28, 687-691

Movements of cormorants in arid Australia. 2001 J. of Arid Environments 49: 677-694

Irrigated agriculture and wildlife conservation: Conflict on a global scale. 2000 Environmental Management 25: 485-512.

Protecting or pumping rivers in arid regions of the world? 2000 Hydrobiologia 427, 1-11.

Review: Ecological impacts of dams, water diversions and river management on floodplain wetlands in Australia. 2000 Austral Ecology 25. 109-127.

Waterbird abundance in eastern Australia, 1983-1992. 1999 Wildlife Research 26: 351-366.

Water flows on Cooper Creek determine 'boom' and 'bust' periods for waterbirds. 1999 Biological Conservation 88: 231-248.

Managing the water of the Border Rivers in Australia: Irrigation, government and the wetland environment. 1999 Wetlands Ecology and Management 7: 25-35.

Aerial surveys as a measure of river and landscape and floodplain health. 1999 Freshwater Biology 41: 425-438.

Counting the costs on wetlands of taking water from our rivers: The Macquarie Marshes as a test case. 1999 In Preserving Rural Australia (eds.) A.I. Robertson and R. Watts. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood: 125-143.

A Free-flowing River: The Ecology of the Paroo River, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.1999

Impact of water diversions on colonially nesting waterbirds in the Macquarie Marshes in arid Australia. 1998 Colonial Waterbirds 21: 159-170.

Waterbirds as a 'flagship' for wetland conservation in arid Australia. 1998 In Wetlands for the Future. Proceedings of INTECOL's V International Wetlands Conference (eds.) A.J. McComb and J.A. Davis. Gleneagles Press, Adelaide: 139-160.

Management of wetlands for waterbirds. 1998 In Management of Australian Wetlands (ed.) W.D. Williams. Environment Australia and Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation, Canberra: 111-122.

Challenges in managing dryland rivers crossing political boundaries: Lessons from Cooper Creek and the Paroo River, central Australia. 1998 Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 8: 361-378.

The management of inland wetlands and river flows and the importance of economic valuation in New South Wales. 1997 Wetlands (Australia) 16: 83-98.

Significant wetlands for waterbirds in the Murray-Darling Basin. Report to the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. 1996

Wildfowl (Anatidae) movements in arid Australia. 1996 In Proceedings of the Anatidae 2000 Conference, Strasbourg, France 5-9 December 1994, (eds.) M. Birkan, J. van Vessem, P. Havet, J. Madsen, B. Trolliet and M. Moser. Gibier Faune Sauvage, Game Wildlife 13: 141-155.

The Macquarie Marshes and its waterbirds in arid Australia: A 50-year history of decline. 1995 Environmental Management 19: 867-878.

Ecological effects of river management in New South Wales. 1995 InConserving Biodiversity: Threats and Solutions (eds.) R.A. Bradstock, T.D. Auld, D.A. Keith, R.T. Kingsford, D. Lunney, and D.P. Sivertsen. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney: 144-161.

Occurrence of high concentrations of waterbirds in arid Australia. 1995 Journal of Arid Environments 29: 421-425.

Harvesting wildlife: Kangaroos and ducks. 1995 InConserving Biodiversity: Threats and Solutions (eds.) R.A. Bradstock, T.D. Auld, D.A. Keith, R.T. Kingsford, D. Lunney, and D.P. Sivertsen. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney: 260-272.

Conserving Biodiversity: Threats and Solutions, Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney. Received first prize from Royal Zoological Society for proceedings of a conference in 1995.