Tracking geomorphic recovery in process-based river management

Kirstie A. Fryirs*, Gary J. Brierley, Fergus Hancock, Tim J. Cohen, Andrew P. Brooks, Ivars Reinfelds, Nick Cook, Allan Raine

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    Human disturbance induces significant geomorphic changes to river systems. In eastern Australia, land-use practices such as clearance of forests and riparian vegetation, and removal of wood from channels in the 19th and 20th centuries induced widespread geomorphic impacts. However, since the 1970s, there has been a noticeable shift in the geomorphic condition of many rivers in eastern New South Wales (NSW). This transition to a recovery trajectory reflects a reduction in land-use pressures and improved farming practices on the one hand and adoption of recovery enhancement approaches to river conservation and rehabilitation by management authorities on the other. Monitoring and tracking changes in condition by state government agencies involves identifying when geomorphic recovery is occurring so that decision-support frameworks can determine whether river management is required, where, when, and how much to intervene to enhance river recovery and when to opt-out of management because the system requires little (or no) intervention. Here, we document procedures that are used to manage process-based, recovery enhancement in NSW. Following a brief review of river change in eastern NSW since European settlement, we outline an approach to identify and measure key geomorphic indicators of river recovery for different river types. We use case studies to demonstrate examples of geomorphic river recovery, prior to showing how state government agencies in NSW are monitoring trajectories and rates of recovery. Broader implications of this 'good news story' are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3221-3244
    Number of pages24
    JournalLand Degradation and Development
    Issue number9
    Early online date1 Jan 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


    • Anthropogenic disturbance
    • Flood hydrology
    • Riparian vegetation
    • River condition
    • River evolution
    • River restoration


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