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Applied research and monitoring

Applied research seeks to solve practical problems by filling key knowledge gaps to inform a management intervention. Another way of getting further information is by undertaking repeat assessments (monitoring) of both the site or the catchment area that influences it to determine if the system is degrading or improving.

If an aquatic ecosystem is allowed to recover without intervention and pressure reduction this is called ‘passive management’. This is not the ‘do nothing’ option and requires monitoring and evaluation to check that the objectives are being met and that there are no negative consequences.

Monitoring may be undertaken for different purposes, including:[1]

  • Status: assessing condition of the site over time.
  • Trend: assessing how components and processes are changing.
  • Implementation: assessing how the intervention has been implemented.
  • Effectiveness: assessing outcome of the intervention to be compared to the objective.
  • Validation: assessing if the intended action does what it is supposed to do. This may be set against a conceptual or empirical model.

  • Surveillance: assessing if a site is maintaining its condition.
  • Investigative: assessing to understand what components and processes are present and how they operate.

Monitoring that occurs before an intervention has occurred include status, trend and investigative assessments and can provide a baseline dataset. Other types of monitoring that seek to evaluate the intervention are used following implementation as part of Step 7 (MMEAS).

If an intervention is undertaken with an inadequate understanding of the issues and risks, and without understanding the whole-of-system, there may be an unacceptably high risk of the project failing. For example, modelling of sediment within the catchment may reveal that a sand slug is migrating down the system. In this instance large wood placement in a channel, intended to increase bed diversity and provide fish habitat, would be buried. Where the rate of the slug migration is uncertain, monitoring may be required to establish whether it is likely to be an issue and what the appropriate management interventions are for both the sand and the original rehabilitation site.

Applied research can range from structured literature reviews and desktop studies, focused experimental work, to installation of long-term monitoring sites. This management theme promotes partnerships among universities, industry, natural resource management bodies and community groups to address knowledge gaps with evidence based, applied science outputs, including citizen science.

Synthesising the science about rehabilitation can include developing a conceptual model of the components and processes, and how the intervention will achieve the intended outcomes, with evidence for all the process links. Those links with limited, or no, evidence can be targeted for data collection either during the intervention or at other existing intervention sites.

Key considerations for applied research and monitoring approaches are:

  1. Scope creep: it can be tempting to measure everything everywhere to get the most of out of a research or monitoring site. Information needs to be targeted at the objectives and care taken to stop the scope of the project becoming too large.
  2. Baseline monitoring: often when the project involves a trigger that is reactive the site has already been altered by a disturbance. Understanding baseline conditions can then be difficult and producing data based around a Before, After, Control, Impact (BACI) approach can be impossible. Where possible data collection should begin prior to intervention, ideally for long enough to understand the processes and their variability. 
  3. Monitoring intervals: set interval frequency and schedule of field visits. However, rigid monitoring intervals may exclude an understanding of what happens during significant events such as floods. Having a hybrid model of event based and fixed time interval monitoring is often useful.
  4. Building on existing data: creating a long-term research program that builds knowledge incrementally over time through either multiple projects, or as a designated research catchment, can be more effective than disparate separate projects. 
  5. Distinguishing the intervention from other factors: a monitoring program that is unable to distinguish the effectiveness of the intervention, relative to background variability, can result in uncertainty on whether the investment was worthwhile. 

Some applied research and monitoring intervention options can viewed through the Intervention options page using the filter.


National Environmental Science Program - DAWE

Water quality, water quantity and aquatic ecosystem monitoring (Department of Environment, Science and Innovation)


  1. ^ Marttunen, M, Weber, C, Åberg, U & Lienert, J (June 2019), 'Identifying relevant objectives in environmental management decisions: An application to a national monitoring program for river restoration', Ecological Indicators. [online], vol. 101, pp. 851-866. Available at: [Accessed 27 May 2022].

Last updated: 30 June 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2022) Applied research and monitoring, WetlandInfo website, accessed 25 June 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation