Changes in vegetation and geomorphological condition 10 years after riparian restoration

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Abstract

Riparian restoration is an important objective for landscape managers seeking to redress the widespread degradation of riparian areas and the ecosystem services they provide. This study investigated the long-term outcomes of 'one-off' restoration activities undertaken in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment, NSW, Australia. The objective of the restoration was to protect and enhance riparian vegetation and control erosion, and consequently reduce sediment and nutrient delivery into the Murrumbidgee River. To evaluate the outcomes 10 years after restoration, rapid riparian vegetation and geomorphological assessments were undertaken at 29 sites spanning the four different restoration methods used (at least five replicates per treatment), as well as at nine comparable untreated sites. We also trialed the use of aerial imagery to compare width of riparian canopy vegetation and projective foliage cover prior to restoration with that observed after 10 years. Aerial imagery demonstrated the width of riparian canopy vegetation and projective foliage cover increased in all restored sites, especially those with native plantings. The rapid assessment process indicated that 10 years after riparian restoration, the riparian vegetation was in a better condition at treated sites compared to untreated sites. Width of riparian canopy vegetation, native mid-storey cover, native canopy cover and seedling recruitment were significantly greater in treated sites compared to untreated sites. Geomorphological condition of treated sites was significantly better than untreated sites, demonstrating the importance of livestock exclusion to improve bank and channel condition. Our findings illustrate the value of 'one-off' restoration activities in achieving long-term benefits for riparian health. We have demonstrated that rapid assessments of the vegetation and geomorphological condition can be undertaken post-hoc to determine the long-term outcomes, especially when supported with analysis of historical aerial imagery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1252
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

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