Between 2002 and 2004, a collaborative project between AIMS and the Northern Territory Government studied the water quality of the greater Darwin Harbour to establish high-quality baseline information that would allow future changes caused by human activities to be detected.
Water quality monitoring Darwin Harbour with the RV Cape Ferguson.
Nine sites throughout Darwin Harbour were monitored on a quarterly basis for information on standing stocks of nutrients and plankton. In addition, more detailed ecosystem processes were studied on two field trips of the RV Cape Ferguson , one in the dry season and one in the wet season.
Darwin Harbour is a macrotidal estuary and, despite high turbidity, has good water quality.
The extensive mangrove communities fringing the harbour are largely undisturbed, and at present levels of development the Darwin Harbour ecosystem remains healthy.
However, the region faces management issues including:
- point source discharges of contaminants, nutrients and sediments
- treated sewage
- land use and management
- diffuse contamination of waters through changes to storm water quality, quantity and movement
- native vegetation clearing and reclamation of coastal, catchment and riparian vegetation for development
- dredging of harbour and dumping of dredged soil, and oil and chemical spill contingency planning and response.
AIMS scientists now understand the main ecosystem process controlling nutrient cycling in Darwin Harbour. This knowledge is critical to managing this ecosystem in the face of Darwin's continuing economic development.