Floodplain-river ecosystems: lateral connections and the implications of human interference

Martin Thoms

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    214 Citations (Scopus)


    Floodplains are ecotones that form a transition between aquatic and terrestrial environments. These important ecosystems can be described as dynamic spatial mosaics in which water plays an important role in connecting various patches on the floodplain surface. Hydrological connections facilitate the exchange of carbon and nutrients between the river channel and the floodplain and therefore influence the productivity of the entire river system. This paper examines the influence of hydrological connections on the potential exchange of dissolved organic carbon between a large Australian floodplain to a river channel, and the effects of land and water developments on these exchanges. The paper proposes that an understanding of floodplain ecosystems requires an interdisciplinary approach—a recognition of the importance of the three disciplines hydrology, geomorphology and ecology. Large-scale water-resources and floodplain development has significantly altered the spatial and temporal patterns of hydrological characteristics in the Lower Balonne floodplain, Australia. The magnitude, frequency and duration of flooding events have all been reduced. The construction of levees and water storages has also reduced the reactive floodplain surface area. The presented data show the impacts of these changes on the potential supply of dissolved organic carbon from the floodplain surface during periods of inundation. Annual reductions of up to 1293 tonnes of dissolved organic carbon supply were noted and reductions were especially significant for floods with an average recurrence interval of 2 years or less. Some small flood events no longer facilitate the potential supply of dissolved organic carbon from the floodplain to the river channel because of water-resources and floodplain developments
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)335-349
    Number of pages15
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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