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Naturalness and Place in River Rehabilitation

Kirstie Fryirs, Macquarie University
Gary J Brierley, University of Auckland

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Abstract

An authentic approach to river rehabilitation emphasizes concerns for the natural values of a given place. As landscape considerations fashion the physical template upon which biotic associations take place, various geomorphic issues must be addressed in framing rehabilitation activities that strive to improve river health. An open-ended approach to river classification promotes applications that appreciate the values of a given river, rather than pigeonholing reality. As the geomorphic structure of some rivers is naturally simple, promoting heterogeneity as a basis for management may not always be appropriate. Efforts to protect unique attributes of river systems must be balanced with procedures that look after common features. Concerns for ecosystem functionality must relate to the behavioral regime of a given river, remembering that some rivers are inherently sensitive to disturbance. Responses to human disturbance must be viewed in relation to natural variability, recognizing how spatial relationships in a catchment, and responses to past disturbances, fashion the operation of contemporary fluxes. These fluxes, in turn, influence what is achievable in the rehabilitation of a given reach. Given the inherently adjusting and evolutionary nature of river systems, notional endpoints do not provide an appropriate basis upon which to promote concepts of naturalness and place in the rehabilitation process. These themes are drawn together to promote rehabilitation practices that relate to the natural values of each river system, in preference to applications of “cookbook” measures that build upon textbook geomorphology.

Key words

connectivity; heterogeneity; physical integrity; river evolution; river health; river process
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087