Drought, disturbance and river resilience in the southern Murray–Darling Basin, Australia

Ross M. Thompson, Shaun C. Cunningham, James R. Thomson, Ralph Mac Nally

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Increased frequency, duration and intensity of droughts are predicted for much of the world due to anthropogenic climate change. Understanding resilience to these kinds of disturbance events is becoming ever more critical to inform management and policy decisions. Here, we provide a conceptual framework for ecological resilience by uniting the resistance–resilience framework with adaptation-pathway thinking. Drawing on both published and unpublished data, we explore the effects of a large and intense drought (the Australian ‘Millennium Drought’) on several ecosystem components (floodplain trees, floodplain birds, frogs, aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish) in the southern Murray–Darling Basin, Australia. We describe changes in these communities during and after the Millennium Drought. There is some suggestion that for fish and aquatic invertebrates, traits associated with resistance and resilience may contribute to determining which species decline and which recover and over what time scales. There has been insufficient attention to understanding the mechanisms that underpin resistance and resilience in this context. Better understanding of these mechanisms would enable a more nuanced approach to managing for potential vulnerability to altered disturbance patterns arising from climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResilience and Riverine Landscapes
EditorsMartin Thoms, Ian Fuller
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780323917162
ISBN (Print)9780323972055
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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