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Published: 2009

A set of dazzling postcards from nature

Mary-Lou Considine

Nature is rich in marvels, but most of us are so busy or removed from the natural world, we never get to witness those elusive moments of breathtaking beauty, drama, intimacy and humour.

Australasian Nature Photography
ANZANG Sixth Collection
South Australian Museum
2009, Paperback
ISBN: 9780643097193 – AU$39.95

This is what makes the annual ANZANG Australasian Nature Photography competition so special.

Every year, hundreds of photographers from around the world take part in a competition that celebrates ‘the depth and diversity of nature in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea’. The winning entries are published in a book, with this year’s being the sixth collection since the competition began.

In its promotion of the book, the South Australian Museum – which runs the annual event – points out that the bioregion of Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea possesses ‘a unique natural heritage stretching back over 50 million years since the break-up of the great southern continent of Gondwana’.

The winning entries show just how unique and dramatic our natural world is – an action-packed moment snapped during a NSW bushfire; gangly jabirus fighting midair over a fish; a live cane toad being devoured by a freshwater snake; a tiny, querulous wagtail taking on an osprey (and getting the better of it!); the bold gaze of a wedge-tailed eagle at close quarters; the breathtaking beauty of a lily in a pond in Brisbane; and two hawksbill turtles embracing before mating. For sheer excitement, it’s hard to go past the shot of two male goshawks on the ground, wings outstretched, sizing each other up for a fight.

This is just a taste of the 150 extraordinary photos assembled in the book. Each is accompanied by technical information about the camera equipment used, and anecdotes about how and where the picture was taken. The additional information provides an insight into the dedication, patience and skill of the 1500 photographers who participated in the ANZANG competition.

With Christmas on the horizon, this book would make an ideal gift for anyone who loves nature and photography. For South Australian readers, a selection of photographs from the competition will be on display at the South Australian Museum from 2 October to 22 November.

Published: 2009

Northern water assessment informs development capacity

Helen Beringen

It either doesn’t rain or it pours up north. Such variability is one of the challenges identified in the first consistent, analytical water assessment of northern Australia released from CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship. The work is informing thinking about the development capacity of the region.

Regional coverage of the Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project.
Regional coverage of the Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project.
Credit: CSIRO

Rainfall and runoff variability are just two components of a comprehensive review of water resources for water policy decisions which form part of the assessments undertaken by the Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project.

Released by Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Dr Mike Kelly, at the RiverSymposium in Brisbane on 21 September, the study resulted from a March 2008 agreement by Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to extend the CSIRO work on sustainable water yields and availability that had been completed in the catchments of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Dr Kelly said the research would be a valuable resource to inform decisions about the conservation and development of northern Australia’s water resources.

‘From Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland, the Northern Australia Sustainable Yields (NASY) reports provide important information on current and likely future water availability in northern Australia,’ he said.

Despite popular perceptions that northern Australia has a surplus of water, the research found the extremely seasonal climate with continuously high temperatures meant that the landscape was annually water-limited, with little or no rain for three to six months every year, and very high potential evapotranspiration rates.

‘Northern Australia experiences high rainfall during the wet season, with most falling near the coast and with year to year amounts that are highly variable,’ said project leader Dr Richard Cresswell.

‘Runoff follows a similar pattern to rainfall, with most surface flow approaching the estuaries, with potential inland dam sites receiving less and quite variable amounts of water and suffering very high evaporation rates.

‘The very few river reaches that flow year-round are mostly sustained by localised groundwater discharge and have high cultural, social, ecological and developmental value,’ he said.

‘Groundwater may offer potential for increased extractions for development, though the highly dynamic nature of shallow aquifers, which rapidly fill during the wet season and drain through the dry season, means there is little opportunity to increase this groundwater storage and careful management is required where these groundwaters also provide sources for the few perennial rivers.’

Dr Cresswell said future climate predictions for the north suggest that evapotranspiration was likely to increase while rainfall was likely to be similar to historical levels, which were lower than the last decade, particularly in the west.

Speaking to ABC Rural, Joe Ross, Chair of the federal government’s Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce (charged with finding new development opportunities in Northern Australia), said the CSIRO report confirmed that expectations for food production in the north have been ‘over the top’, and that there would be limited opportunity for broad-scale agriculture in the tropics.

The Taskforce’s submission to the government later this year will take into account the central findings of the CSIRO teams’ work. ‘It covers not only the amounts of water in northern Australia, but also what impact there’ll be on the livelihoods of the community of northern Australia, in particular, one of the main constituents being Indigenous Australians,’ Mr Ross said.

The Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project is part of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment (NAWFA), a five-year program to develop an enduring knowledge base to inform decisions about conservation and development of northern Australia’s water resources, so that any development proceeds in an ecologically, culturally and economically sustainable manner.

More information:

Dr Richard Cresswell:

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