Sylvia Hay
PhD Candidate
Contact details:

Room 456, D26 Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Aquatic invertebrate strategies for coping with drought

My research examines the likely effects of climate change on aquatic invertebrate communities in intermittent rivers. Intermittent rivers, or rivers that periodically cease to flow, are the prevalent river type in Australia and occur across many climatic regions. It was  assumed for many years that intermittent rivers have low biodiversity value, however intermittent rivers can support a diverse range of taxa, with aquatic invertebrates pivotal in the 'boom and bust' ecology of these systems. We know little however about the tolerance of aquatic invertebrates to extended drying, the strategies they use, and limits to survival.

Physiological and behavioral strategies to survive drying are being investigated in this project, across different climate types or biomes. These refugial strategies include persistence in pools, aestivation in dry sediment and aerial dispersal.

Over the next century, the importance of understanding intermittent river dynamics will increase in regions that experience drying trends due to climate as well as land-cover change, and increasing water abstraction for human use. This study is part of a wider ARC linkage project comprising innovative approaches to identifying regional responses of biodiversity to climate change.