, Volume 603, Issue 1, pp 83-104

Multi-attribute ecological river typology for assessing ecological condition and conservation planning

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Abstract

A river classification framework is needed to make good management and planning decisions about river health and biodiversity. We developed a multi-attribute ecological river typology to address this need in the Australian State of New South Wales (801,428 km2). Multivariate patterns in data collected from 322 reference sites were used to define river types for each attribute: abiotic features (10 types), fish assemblages (6 types) and macroinvertebrate assemblages from river edges (8 types) and riffle zones (5 types). We used classification tree analysis to define broad regions for each attribute and then to construct identification keys for river types within each region using slope, elevation, maximum distance from source, latitude and mean annual rainfall. These keys allow the mapping of the likely spatial extent of river types and the assignment of a multi-attribute river-type identity to a river reach anywhere in the State. We used the average dissimilarity distances among the river types and the rates of misclassification of reference sites to assess the reliability of the assignments for different attributes in different regions. This approach to river classification can be applied anywhere in the world, resulting in simple to highly complex typologies depending on data availability. In data-poor areas it may result in a single attribute typology based on remotely derived variables and a coarsely defined reference condition. In data-rich areas the typology may have a large number of attributes using very large datasets with high resolution.

Handling editor: D. Dudgeon