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Modification of river meandering by tropical deforestation

Horton, Alexander J., Constantine, Jose Antonio, Hales, Tristram C. ORCID:, Goossens, Benoit ORCID:, Bruford, Michael W. ORCID: and Lazarus, Eli D. 2017. Modification of river meandering by tropical deforestation. Geology 45 (6) , pp. 511-514. 10.1130/G38740.1

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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. The implications of such extensive forest clearing on the dynamics of tropical river systems remain relatively unknown, despite significant progress in our understanding of the role of trees in riverbank stability. Here, we document rates of deforestation and corresponding average annual rates of riverbank erosion along the freely meandering Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia, from Landsat satellite imagery spanning A.D. 1989–2014. 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 >23% within our study reaches. Further, the correlation between the magnitude of planform curvature and rates of riverbank erosion only became strongly positive and significant following deforestation, suggesting an important role of forests in the evolution of meandering rivers, even when riverbank heights exceed the depth of root penetration.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Additional Information: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY licence
Publisher: Geological Society of America
ISSN: 0091-7613
Funders: Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 June 2017
Date of Acceptance: 5 February 2017
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2023 02:02

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