Deforestation accelerating river erosion
31 March 2017
New scientific paper examines the modification of river meandering by tropical deforestation.
The paper, published in Geology is part of Alexander Horton's PhD, which is a collaboration between Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Cardiff School of Biosciences. The Research was carried out at the Cardiff University Danau Girang Field Centre.
Tropical forests are the only forest biome to have experienced increased rates of forest loss during the past decade because of global demands for food and biofuels. Horton et al. investigated the implications of such extensive forest clearing on the dynamics of tropical river systems, particularly how rapidly floodplains erode after deforestation.
Speaking about his work Alex said: “We document rates of deforestation and corresponding average annual rates of riverbank erosion along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia. We estimate that deforestation removed over half of the river’s floodplain forest and up to 30% of its riparian cover, which increased rates of riverbank erosion by over 23% within our study reaches. These results highlight the vital role of forests in the evolution of meandering rivers and their riverbank stability.”
The Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia, offers an important opportunity to document and assess the relationship between tropical floodplain forest and riverbank erosion. The lowland floodplain surrounding the Kinabatangan River has undergone substantial land-cover transformation from forest to oil palm plantations and similar agribusinesses. The work suggests that continued conservation of floodplain forest will mitigate loss of agricultural lands.
The paper 'Modification of river meandering by tropical deforestation' was published in Geology.