Dams and climate change accelerate channel avulsion and coastal erosion and threaten Ramsar-listed wetlands in the largest Great Barrier Reef watershed

Wolanski, Eric, and Hopper, Christopher (2022) Dams and climate change accelerate channel avulsion and coastal erosion and threaten Ramsar-listed wetlands in the largest Great Barrier Reef watershed. Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology, 22 (2). pp. 197-212.

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Abstract

This study documents the impact of climate change and human activities on the Burdekin River delta and coast. The Burdekin River is located in the dry tropics with a seasonally and interannually highly variable discharge, controlled by occasional cyclones and the ENSO- dependent monsoon. Even though the peak discharge from cyclonic rainfall is decreased by a dam, large floods still occur during long-duration monsoon. While the dam traps much of the coarse sediment runoff, large amounts still reach the Delta originating from catch- ments downstream of the dam. The riverbed in the Delta has measurably risen in recent decades. In turn, this increases the flood levels and the threat of channel avulsion. Sand trapping by the dam and in the Delta is also starving the coast of sand, and this generates rapid coastal erosion along the 11 km long Cape Bowling Green peninsula. Climate change is enhancing this coastal erosion as in the last few decades the mean sea level and the frequency of strong winds have increased significantly. The peninsula may breach soon. As the peninsula protects Ramsar-listed wetlands of international significance, its breaching is predicted to impact the fisheries that depend on the Cape (the black marlin billfish) and on the wetlands (mud crabs, barramundi and mangrove jacks), as well as shorebirds and waterbirds. These findings demonstrate the connectivity of water and sediment through- out the river basin and the coast, and the need for management at the basin scale using ecohydrology principles.

Item ID: 72999
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2080-3397
Keywords: Floods; Sediment Flux; Sedimentation; Erosion; Dams; Fisheries; Burdekin River
Copyright Information: © 2022 European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2022 02:20
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3707 Hydrology > 370704 Surface water hydrology @ 50%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4408 Political science > 440805 Environmental politics @ 50%
SEO Codes: 15 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 1599 Other economic framework > 159902 Ecological economics @ 50%
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190101 Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem) @ 50%
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