Tropical Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition

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In Australia, a number of methods for estimating riparian condition have been developed, primarily to assist with management, weed control and maintaining ecological integrity and biodiversity. The aim of these methods is to establish a standard monitoring system that can provide comparable assessments across areas. The method that has been developed for tropical Australia, known as the Tropical Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition [TRARC] (Dixon et al. 2006) has been used in the Burdekin River catchment (Dowe et al. 2004; Dowe 2004).

The TRARC method is used to score a number of simple vegetation attributes in the riparian zone, and thus provide an overall score that is intended to rank the '‘ecological condition’' of the site. Management issues can be derived from such assessments. The scoring system is composed of five components:

  1. vegetation cover;
  2. woody debris;
  3. weediness;
  4. native regeneration; and
  5. disturbance.

In addition, supplementary data (that are not given scores) record the following:

  • types and levels of erosion;
  • geomorphological attributes;
  • stream and riparian zone dimensions;
  • position and influence of fences and water points;
  • water permanency; and
  • population structures of the dominant native species and weeds.

Sites were chosen to provide a broad range of ecological types in which riparian vegetation occurs, including perennial or seasonal streams; permanent, semi-permanent or ephemeral waterholes associated with streams or anabranches; permanent springs associated with streams or away from streams; and lakes and lagoons.

The TRARC method is intended as a rapid appraisal technique, and therefore focuses on what are considered to be the most important elements from which ecological condition can be estimated. All trees and/or shrubs occurring in the riparian zone were identified to species, whilst under story plants, including grasses, were identified as functional elements with reference to cover and regeneration. The presence/absence and regeneration status of deleterious weeds were recorded at each site.


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