Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems, or GDEs, are natural systems that need groundwater for their health. They include rivers, wetlands and springs, as well as vegetation and caves. GDEs play an essential role in our country’s biodiversity. They are important for recreation, supporting fish and plant production, and supporting water storage and purification. Many rivers depend on inflows from groundwater, to support river health during dry periods. Development activities like construction, mining and pumping can threaten these ecosystems. For example, pollution of groundwater and increasing salinity can degrade GDEs, and groundwater pumping can reduce water table levels and limit water supply to these ecosystems. So potential impacts on GDEs need to be considered in water management plans and environmental impact assessments. In our role as Waterway Manager, it’s important to understand where our groundwater dependent ecosystems exist in the landscape. We value the role that groundwater plays to support our wetlands and waterways. For example, providing refuge in drier times for our plants and animals, such as the wonderful deep pools here at the Werribee Gorge. We’ve mapped our ecosystems, and are trying to understand the role that groundwater plays to support them. So that we can build management actions going forward to help build resilience for these sites. The Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Atlas, or GDE Atlas, has been developed to meet these information needs. The Atlas is a national inventory of groundwater dependent ecosystems across Australia. It maps the location of these ecosystems, and provides information about their ecology and hydrogeology. It is part of the Bureau’s online Groundwater Information Suite. The GDE Atlas has information about three GDE types: Aquatic, such as wetlands, rivers and springs;
Terrestrial, including trees, shrubs and forests; and Subterranean GDEs, such as caves. You can zoom into your area of interest, and select specific GDEs to discover more detailed information. Use the Bureau’s GDE Atlas to inform your decision making, and protect these sensitive ecosystems.