Investigating channel change in relation to landuse change in the Klein Berg River, Tulbagh
Esau, Mandy Anita
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The Klein Berg River catchment is intensely cultivated with orchards, vineyards and wheat, while also ensuring a water supply to the main urban center, Tulbagh, and the two conservation areas (Waterval and Groot Winterhoek). The primary objective of this thesis is to determine channel change over a long and short time period, and to relate these changes to landuse change within the catchment. Assessing stability of a selected reach within the catchment was done on a short term basis with the use of erosion pins and cross profiles, while aerial photographs of over 55 years (acquired during 1942, 1967, 1987 and 1997) which were analysed using Geographic Informations Systems. Rainfall and discharge data, which were available for a period of 49-years were statistically analysed and used to determine trends. Vegetation characteristics were assessed by means of transects within the study reach. The results over the short time period (18 months) indicate noticeable channel change in the form of erosion and deposition within the channel. Bank material composition and riparian invasive alien vegetation play an important role in bank stability. Sand was the dominant grain size of the bank material, and fluvial entrainment occurred during periods of high flow. Woody alien trees prevent the growth of protective ground vegetation, and thus the soil is prone to erosion. Undercutting was also observed with the invasive woody trees, resulting in treefall. Debris dams were also common in the channel and depending on their position in the channel, either cause or prevent bank erosion. Landuse change over the 55-year period illustrated its effects on channel stability. Shrublands within the catchment has been replaced with invasive alien vegetation along the riparian zone, while shrublands along the Obiekwa Mountains, were replaced with cultivated lands. The patterns (shape and size) of lateral and point bars within the study area changed significantly within the 55-year period, which indicates a change in the discharge and sediment dynamics within the catchment. The change in sediment dynamics may be due to agricultural activities and urbanization. The increased trend in rainfall, especially during the winter season within the catchment is also an important catchment control. The study has revealed the integrated nature of variables within the catchment. It is thus recommended that a holistic and integrated approach at a catchment scale is required in the assessment of channel change of a river.