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Measuring riparian condition: A comparison of assessments by landholders and scientists


  • Andrea Wilson,

  • Amy Jansen,

  • Allan Curtis,

  • Alistar Robertson

  • Andrea Wilson is a lecturer in ecology at Charles Sturt University (Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia. Tel. +61 2 69332552; Fax: +61 269332737; Email: Amy Jansen is a research fellow with the Institute for Land, Water & Society at Charles Sturt University. Allan Curtis is based at CSU's Albury campus (PO Box 789 Albury, NSW 2640, Australia) and is the Director of the Institute for Land, Water & Society. Alistar Robertson is Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Western Australia (35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia). This project was undertaken as part of a larger research program to improve understanding of landholder management of river frontages on private property in the Goulburn Broken Catchment of northern Victoria.


Summary  To a large extent, the condition of riparian areas in Australia is determined by the management actions of private landholders. In this study, we discuss findings from our research in the Goulburn Broken Catchment comparing landholder and scientist assessments of the condition of riparian areas. We interviewed 33 landholders and undertook ecological condition assessments at 38 sites on privately managed river frontages. Using mail survey data that included landholder assessments of riparian condition, we were then able to compare landholder and scientist assessments. Despite substantial effort in this catchment to improve riparian condition, the riparian zones sampled were generally in poor condition. Landholder and scientist assessments of ecological condition showed a significant positive correlation. This indicated broad agreement, despite some substantial differences in assessment of some components of the condition score. Disparities between scientist and landholder assessments were related to the estimation of native ground cover, leaf litter cover and tree canopy continuity within riparian zones. The capacity of this simple assessment tool to differentiate varying levels of riparian zone degradation demonstrates the potential utility of mailed, self-assessment surveys to inform management programs and decisions about the allocation of resources for restoration efforts.