Reading: Riparian habitats on the Chowilla Floodplain of the River Murray, South Australia.


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Riparian habitats on the Chowilla Floodplain of the River Murray, South Australia.


J Roberts ,

J A Ludwig


For most of its length, the River Murray is a floodplain river with only 350 out of 2560 km, a mere 14%, being headwaters (Walker 1986). The floodplain of the River Murray is large; approximately 10000km². It spans a wide climatic range and has a varied geomorphology and thus is not uniform in character. To date, scientific research has focused on the upper and middle floodplains, notably on billabongs (Hillman 1986) and red gum forests (Bren & Gibbs 1986, Chesterfield 1986). Although wetlands on the Murray floodplain have been mapped and classified using categories based on geomorphology and hydrology (Pressey 1986), their aquatic plant communities remain poorly documented. Descriptions and maps of floodplain vegetation have focused almost exclusively on woody dominants (Chesterfield 1986, NEC 1987, MPPL 1989) and specifically excluded hydrophytes (Moore 1953). Wetland inventories have given only cursory descriptions of vegetation (Thompson 1986). The aim of this study was to gain further knowledge about aquatic habitats on the Chowilla floodplain on the lower Murray by describing the riparian vegetation in terms of plant species and vegetation structure, and relating these to environmental factors. Chowilla is part of a larger floodplain between Wentworth in New South Wales and Renmark in South Australia (Fig. 1). This larger floodplain is 5-10 km broad and comprises 1515 km² along 358 km of river. Wetlands are numerous and occupy nearly 10% of the floodplain area. The most common geomorphic types are lentic channel forms, such as anabranches and shallow depressions, of which 70% are connected to the river at pool level (Pressey 1986). The prevalence of this hydrological category reflects the dominating effect of regulation. Lock 6, constructed during 1927-30 at Murtho, upstream of Renmark (Fig. 1), creates a pool of 77 km long up the main river channel. This pool provides a hydraulic head at weirs at the head of two anabranches, Pipeclay and Slaney Creeks, therefore both have rapid flow and are fast anabranches. At low flow, approximately half of the River Murray flow is into the Chowilla Creek anabranch via Pipeclay Creek (NEC 1987).
How to Cite: Roberts, J. and Ludwig, J.A., 2009. Riparian habitats on the Chowilla Floodplain of the River Murray, South Australia.. Wetlands Australia, 9(1), pp.pp. 13–19. DOI:
Published on 16 Oct 2009.
Peer Reviewed


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