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Threats to Braided Rivers

Threats to Braided Rivers


Take a moment to examine the Google Earth image above, of the Rangitata River.

The ghosts of a past where this once mighty river flowed unconstrained by engineering, weeds, and agriculture are visible in the scars of braids and river channels on the left of the photo. (Also on the right, but harder to see.) This image illustrates four key impacts from people on braided rivers: abstraction of water for irrigation, engineering to prevent floods, willows and other non-native trees to prevent erosion, and habitat loss due to agricultural/foresty incursion.

Threats to the Ashley Rakahuri estuary: 2023 Braided Rivers seminar presentation

Weeds and the predators hiding amongst them also are threats that have been introduced by humans. As too is climate change, a threat that will likely trump them all. While all of these threats have come about because of human activities, for ease of understanding and management, we have separated them into four overarching categories in the menu.

Unless we know what something is, we can’t define what’s threatening it or how to protect and restore it. The section on habitat loss explains braided rivers as a globally rare geological feature called a braidplain that supports one of the rarest, richest, and most dynamic ecosystems on Earth.

And we’re losing them. Fast.

Further information & references