• Interaction of ENSO-driven Flood Variability and Anthropogenic Changes in Driving Channel Evolution: Corryong/ Nariel Creek, Australia

      Teo, Elisha A.; Marren, Philip M.; University of Melbourne (Taylor & Francis, 2015-09-03)
      Understanding the relative contributions of climatic and anthropogenic drivers of channel change are important to inform river management, especially in the context of environmental change. This global debate is especially pertinent in Australia as catchments have been severely altered since recent European settlement, and there is also strong evidence of cyclical climate variability controlling environmental systems. Corryong/Nariel Creek is an ideal setting to further study the interaction between climate and anthropogenic changes on channel evolution as it has experienced both significant periods of flood and drought, controlled by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and extensive anthropogenic changes. Since European settlement the floodplain has been completely cleared, the riparian zone almost entirely invaded by willows, and every reach of the channel has experienced some form of direct channel modification. Through the combined analysis of channel evolution, climate changes and anthropogenic history of the river it was found that both the ENSO-driven climate and anthropogenic drivers are significant, although at different scales of channel change. Significant straightening in response to land clearing in the early twentieth century occurred before any records of direct channel modifications. Following this, most river management works were in response to instabilities created in the clearing period, or to instabilities created by flooding triggering a new phase of instability in reaches which had already undergone stabilisation works. Overall, human activities triggered channel instability via land clearing, and management works since then generally exacerbated erosion during high flows that are driven by climate fluctuations. This research raises the interesting question of whether rivers in Australia have become more responsive to the ENSO cycle since the clearing of catchment and riparian vegetation, or whether the past response to climate variability was different.