, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 333-348

A high resolution record of storm-induced erosion from lake sediments, New Zealand

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The sustainable management of erodible pastoral hill country is a major focus of land use research in New Zealand. A multi-disciplinary study, using a high resolution lake sedimentation record, is being conducted to determine the role that cyclonic storms and natural and human-induced vegetation changes play in the erosion history of a landslide-prone hill country watershed.

Sediment cores from Lakes Tutira and Waikopiro in northern Hawke's Bay were analysed to construct the magnitude-frequency history of storm-induced erosion since European settlement. Pulses of sediment representing individual storms can be clearly identified and are correlated to a storm history derived from analysis of a 93 year daily rainfall record. Correlation and dating are confirmed by pollen and diatom analysis,137Cs distribution, tephrochronology and reference to a well documented land use history. Annually laminated, organic rich deposits, which occur in the uppermost sediments and represent the annual decomposition of biogenic material associated with eutrophication, are also used to confirm the chronology.

A high correlation was found between storm sediment thickness and total storm rainfall (R2=0.8). Although sediment producing storms (>150 mm) occur on a near annual basis, the two largest storms (>600 mm) contributed 54% of the total sediment thickness.

The presence of well defined ‘storm sediment pulses’ has enabled the lake storage component of a sediment budget to be calculated for Cyclone Bola (1988), the most recent and largest rainstorm on record. The integration of this budget with the storm-magnitude-frequency history will be used to develop watershed-based models to predict the impacts of land use changes and the erosion response to climate scenarios.

This is the third paper in a series of papers published in this issue on high-resolution paleolimnology. These papers were presented at the Sixth International Palaeolimnological Symposium held 19–21 April, 1993 at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Dr A. F. Lotter and Dr. M. Sturm served as guest editors for these papers.