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Water, Wind, Wood, and Trees: Interactions, Spatial Variations, Temporal Dynamics, and their Potential Role in River Rehabilitation

Authors

  • WAYNE D. ERSKINE,

    Corresponding author
    1. Physico-Chemical Processes Group, Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, GPO Box 461, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia
    2. Sustainable Use of Catchments and Coasts, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle, PO Box 127, Ourimbah, NSW 2258, Australia
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  • MICHAEL J. SAYNOR,

    1. Physico-Chemical Processes Group, Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, GPO Box 461, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia
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  • ANITA CHALMERS,

    1. Sustainable Use of Catchments and Coasts, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle, PO Box 127, Ourimbah, NSW 2258, Australia
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  • STEVEN J. RILEY

    1. Tertiary Engineering and Sustainable Technology Pty Ltd. 45 Albert Drive, Killara, NSW 2071, Australia
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Email: wayne.erskine@environment.gov.au

Abstract

Recent Australian research has quantified the role of large wood (wood of any origin and length with a diameter greater than 0.1 m) in dissipating stream energy, forming pool habitats by local bed scour, protecting river banks from erosion, and damming rivers with long rafts causing avulsions. Large wood in Australian streams is sourced by a range of processes from the nearby riparian zone which has usually been degraded by post-European settlement vegetation clearing. Large wood loadings within the bankfull channel are dependent not only on the type and quality of the riparian plant community but also on bankfull specific stream power, channel width, and the processes of large wood delivery to the stream. While bank erosion and floodplain stripping by catastrophic floods are obvious and important delivery mechanisms, treefall and trunk and branch breakage by strong winds during tropical cyclones and severe storms are also significant in the tropics. Furthermore, wood decay and downstream transport produce temporally dynamic large wood distributions. The longevity of natural large wood structures in rivers, such as rafts, debris dams, and log steps, requires determination. River rehabilitation programs need to not only include the reintroduction of large wood, but also carefully plan the spatial distribution of that wood, the most appropriate type and range of large wood structures, and, most importantly, the revegetation of the riparian zone to ensure a natural long-term source of large wood. Exotic species management is an essential part of river rehabilitation.

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