The development of the hydraulic biotope concept within a catchment based hierarchical geomorphological model

Wadeson, R.A. (1996) The development of the hydraulic biotope concept within a catchment based hierarchical geomorphological model. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

This thesis develops a technique for the identification, classification and quantification of instream flow environments. These features have been traditionally referred to as 'habitats' by lotic ecologists, in this research they are termed 'hydraulic biotopes'. The hydraulic biotope is the lowest of six nested levels of a hierarchical geomorphological model. This model has been developed as a tool to assist river managers, researchers and conservationists to categorise or classify rivers with respect to their geomorphic characteristics. Each level of the model provides data at a different level of resolution. This ranges from the broad scale catchment data to the site specific 'habitat' or hydraulic biotope data. Although this thesis is primarily concerned with the development of the hydraulic biotope, the interaction of all catchment variables needs to be recognised. Detailed analysis of hydraulic biotope data in the Buffalo River are presented within the broader hierarchical model. Consultation with lotic ecologists, together with a review of ecological literature, emphasised the need for a standardised terminology for the classification of ecologically significant instream flow environments. At present a fairly haphazard 'habitat' classification tends to be carried out by most researchers, this often leads to confusion in the identification and naming of different hydraulic biotopes ('habitats'). This confusion is exaggerated by the sharing of terminology between lotic ecology and fluvial geomorphology, usually for the categorisation of different types of features. A review of the ecological literature emphasises the importance of flow hydraulics within a river to describe the distribution of biota. The hydraulic variables considered to be most significant include velocity and depth. As river morphology directly determines the prevailing distribution of depth, velocity and substratum, it is obvious that there are important links to be made between fluvial geomorphology and lotic ecology. This thesis explores the potential of the hydraulic biotope as a tool to help develop those links. This thesis presents a standardised classification matrix for the identification of hydraulic biotopes. The matrix is simply based on water surface characteristics together with channel bed substratum. The validity of this matrix is tested by statistical analysis of hydraulic variables quantifying flow conditions within the various hydraulic biotope classes. Data is presented from four different river systems, each representing a different sedimentological environment. Where possible the influence of discharge has been considered. Results from more than 3000 data points show that hydraulic biotopes have distinct hydraulic characteristics in terms of velocity-depth ratio, Froude number, Reynolds number, 'roughness' Reynolds number and shear velocity. These hydraulic indices represent flow conditions both as an average within the water column, and near the bed. Statistical analysis shows that the hydraulic characteristics of the various hydraulic biotope classes are relatively consistent both within different fluvial environments and at different stages of flow. Unlike the morphological unit in which the hydraulic biotope is nested, in stream flow environments are shown to be temporally dynamic. Using the classification matrix as a tool for identification, hydraulic biotopes identified at one discharge are shown to be transformed from one class to another as a response to change in stage. The pattern of transformation is shown to be consistent within different sedimentological environments. An examination of the associations between hydraulic biotopes and morphological units demonstrates that, although some hydraulic biotopes are common to all morphological units (backwater pools, pools and runs), some features have specific associations. In this study rapids were found to be prevalent in bedrock pavement, bedrock pool and plane bed morphology, while cascades, chutes and riffles were common to plane bed, step and riffle morphology. Results from this research indicate that the hydraulic biotope, within the hierarchical geomorphological model, has the potential to aid the prediction of channel adjustment and associated 'habitat' (hydraulic biotope) transformation in response to changes in flow and sediment yield. These are likely to become increasingly important issues as South Africa strives to maintain a balance between the development of water resources to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding population, whilst at the same time maintaining the fluvial environment for sustainable use.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Stream ecology, South Africa, Hydrology
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geography
Supervisors:Rowntree, Kate
ID Code:3689
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:17 Oct 2012 13:11
Last Modified:17 Oct 2012 13:11
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