Channel change following European settlement: Gilmore Creek, southeastern Australia

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Page, Ken
Frazier, Paul
Pietsch, Timothy
Dehaan, Remy
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2007
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Abstract

European settlement in southeastern Australia led to rapid changes in the morphology of many upland streams. However, our knowledge of the nature of these changes is limited as historical records and preserved palaeochannels are rare. In this study we compare a well‐preserved section of the late Holocene palaeochannel of Gilmore Creek to its present channel. We used a combination of map and aerial photograph interpretation, field survey, OSL dating and discharge analysis to describe and compare the modern and palaeochannels and establish a firm date for the timing of channel change. In common with many other streams in southeastern Australia Gilmore Creek's late Holocene channel meandered across a stable well‐vegetated and frequently inundated floodplain. After about 1830 European settlers quickly modified the catchment by clearing riparian and hillslope vegetation, introducing grazing animals and other exotic species and mining for alluvial gold in the headwaters. The OSL dates show that between about 1850 and 1880 the small meandering channel aggraded with coarse sands and then up to about 1 m of silty sand was deposited over the floodplain. Declining sediment input from upstream channel avulsion before 1890 resulted in the establishment of a straighter, larger capacity channel that incised to the level of basal cobbles and, in places, to bedrock. The dramatic change in channel pattern resembles that described on the Cann River in eastern Victoria following the removal of riparian vegetation and within‐channel coarse woody debris. At Gilmore Creek increased channel capacity has greatly reduced the average frequency of floodplain inundation. High values of specific stream power suggest that channel morphology is now well adjusted to the present flow regime.

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Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

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32

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Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience not elsewhere classified

Geology

Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience

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