, Volume 318, Issue 3, pp 179-194

Distribution and hydraulic significance of large woody debris in a lowland Australian river

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Abstract

The line-intersect technique was used to measure the loading of large woody debris in a 1.8 km reach of the Thomson River, Victoria (catchment area of 3540 km2). A debris census (measuring every item present) was done over 0.775 km of this reach. The transect technique over-estimated the actual loading revealed by the census. The loading of debris ≥0.01 m in diameter for the total 1.8 km reach was 0.0172 m3 m−2, which is higher than that measured in many headwater streams in other parts of the world. The volume loading of debris measured from low level aerial photographs was only 4.8% of the value estimated by the line-intersect technique. The line-intersect estimates were biased due to non-random orientation of debris in the stream (causing estimated errors of +8% for volume loading and +16% for surface area loading). It is recommended that to avoid this problem, when using the line-intersect transect technique in lowland rivers, each line should comprise at least two obliquely-angled transects across the channel. The mean item of debris (≥0.1 m in diameter) had a trunk basal diameter of 0.45 m, a length of 7.4 m, and volume of 0.7 m3. The riparian trees and the in-channel debris were of similar dimensions. The debris tended to be close to the bed and banks and was oriented downstream by the flow at a median angle of 27°. Because of this orientation, most debris had a small projected cross-sectional area, with the median value being only 1 m2. Thus, the blockage ratio (proportion of projected area of debris to channel cross-sectional area) was also low, ranging from 0.0002 to 0.1, with a median value of 0.004. The average item of debris, which occupied only 0.4% of the cross-section, would have minimal influence on banktop flow hydraulics, but the largest items, which occupied around 10%, could be significant. Judicious re-introduction of debris into previously cleared rivers is unlikely to result in a large loss of conveyance, or a detectable increase in flooding frequency.