Sequential floods drive ‘booms’ and wetland persistence in dryland rivers: a synthesis

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Leigh, Catherine
Sheldon, Fran
Kingsford, Richard T
Arthington, Angela H
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2010
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Flow is a key driver regulating processes and diversity in river systems across a range of temporal and spatial scales. In dryland rivers, variability in the timing and scale of floods has specific ecological significance, playing a major role in sustaining biotic diversity across the river-floodplain mosaic. However, longitudinal effects of floods are equally important, delivering water downstream through channels and wetland complexes. Interaction among spatially distributed wetlands, their connecting channel and floodplain geomorphology and the temporally variable flow events not only creates the spatial complexity in dryland rivers but also determines temporal persistence of wetlands. These act as hydrological 'sponges', absorbing water from upstream and needing to fill before releasing water downstream. Sequential high flow events are essential for the ecological persistence of riverine wetlands and the transmission of flows further downstream through the channel network. These flood sequences maintain aquatic refugia and drive booms in productivity sustaining aquatic and terrestrial biota over large spatial and temporal scales. Disrupting the sequence, with modified flow regimes and water removal for diversion (e.g. irrigation), significantly reduces the opportunity for wetland replenishment. As a result, the benefits of sequential flooding to the wetland 'sponges' and their biotic communities will be lost.

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Marine and Freshwater Research

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61

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8

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© 2010 CSIRO. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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Surface water hydrology

Conservation and biodiversity

Freshwater ecology

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