Respecting River Diversity

Friday, February 28, 2020

Australian rivers are different to those in other parts of the world. Our ancient land mass – subject to droughts and flooding rains, cared for and lived with for tens of thousands of years – has produced globally distinctive landscapes and ecosystems that can’t be found anywhere else.

Within Australia, there is an enormous diversity of rivers. This diversity is what makes each river so special and worth valuing.

River diversity and geomorphology

One way of understanding and articulating the value of river diversity is to use geomorphology – the study of earth surface forms and processes. Geomorphologically-informed understandings can work with other river knowledges to help us understand why our rivers are diverse and how we can best care for the things that make our rivers different and valuable.

A geomorphologically-informed understanding of river diversity goes beyond describing difference. It also sets out to explain difference in terms of the processes that drive rivers as dynamic, living systems, and the catchment-scale relationships that produce particular rivers in particular places. It is an observational and interpretative science, grounded in the reality of how rivers are now and how they might be in the future.

To help us understand and articulate the things that we value in a river system, we need a coherent information base – one that relates multiple ways of seeing and knowing rivers with scientifically-informed insights.

Written by: Kirstie Fryirs, Gary Brierley & Simon Mould, for the Australian River Restoration Centre.

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