Dramatic reduction in size of the lowland Macquarie River in response to Late Quaternary climate-driven hydrologic change

Paul P. Hesse*, Rory Williams, Timothy J. Ralph, Zacchary T. Larkin, Kirstie A. Fryirs, Kira E. Westaway, David Yonge

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Palaeochannels of lowland rivers provide a means of investigating the sensitivity of river response to climate-driven hydrologic change. About 80 palaeochannels of the lower Macquarie River of southeastern Australia record the evolution of this distributive fluvial system. Six Macquarie palaeochannels were dated by single-grain optically stimulated luminescence. The largest of the palaeochannels (Quombothoo, median age 54 ka) was on average 284 m wide, 12 times wider than the modern river (24 m) and with 21 times greater meander wavelength. Palaeo-discharge then declined, resulting in a younger, narrower, group of palaeochannels, Bibbijibbery (125 m wide, 34 ka), Billybingbone (92 m, 20 ka), Milmiland (112 m, 22 ka), and Mundadoo (86 m, 5.6 ka). Yet these channels were still much larger than the modern river and were continuous downstream to the confluence with the Barwon-Darling River. At 5.5 ka, a further decrease in river discharge led to the formation of the narrow modern river, the ecologically important Macquarie Marshes, and Marra Creek palaeochannel (31 m, 2.1 ka) and diminished sediment delivery to the Barwon-Darling River as palaeo-discharge fell further. The hydrologic changes suggest precipitation was a driving forcing on catchment discharge in addition to a temperature-driven runoff response.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)360-379
    Number of pages20
    JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
    Volume90
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

    Keywords

    • Floodplain wetlands
    • Fluvial geomorphology
    • Holocene
    • Macquarie Marshes
    • Murray-Darling basin
    • Palaeohydrology

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