Australian Heritage Commission, 1998
ISBN 0 6425 4590 1
Part A - Wild River Values and Impacts (continued)
2. Wild River Values
'Riverbank Detail', Weld River, southern Tas. The conservation value of wild rivers and their catchments derives from their scientific, habitat, ecological, rarity and intrinsic values. Protection of a river system will protect many other inter-related ecological systems and processes.
Photo: Claire Webb © 1998
Wild rivers and their catchments, because of their ecological processes, can have a variety of values. Some of these values are directly attributable to, or are enhanced by, their essentially natural condition. Other values do not depend on the river's undisturbed nature, and can be found in all river systems.
Values that relate to lack of disturbance
Rarity: Wild rivers are becoming increasingly scarce on a global scale. As their scarcity increases, their conservation value also increases.
Habitat: Wild rivers and their catchments are often biologically diverse and productive habitats. They provide habitat for some threatened species of flora and fauna, corridors for wildlife, and refuge habitat for many species in times of drought.
Ecological systems: Natural river systems are part of life support systems, through processes such as nutrient cycling, energy flows, breakdown of toxicants, conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen, recharge of underground water supplies, and water storage.
Conservation: The conservation value of wild rivers and their catchments derives from their scientific, habitat, ecological, rarity and intrinsic values. Protection of a river system will protect many other inter-related ecological systems and processes.
Water quality protection: Many wild rivers supply high quality water for downstream use, including potable water supply, irrigation, waste disposal, fisheries, aquaculture, and navigation.
Scientific: Wild rivers and their catchments can provide baseline data for environmental monitoring and information on the functioning of natural systems. They provide for the study of ongoing fluvial and other geomorphic processes. Natural river catchments can provide biogeographical information, and may contain sites of significance for geology, geomorphology, botany, zoology, archaeology, and other sciences. They also provide a store of genetic stock of the animal and plant species living in them.
Educational: Wild rivers are important educational resources, particularly for students of the natural sciences. They can be used for learning through field visits, or through recording in print, audio-visual or electronic media.
Upper Cotter River, ACT. Many wild rivers supply high quality water for downstream use, including potable water supply, irrigation, waste disposal, fisheries, aquaculture and navigation.
Photo: Andrew Tatnell © 1998
Intrinsic: Many people believe that species, natural communities and ecosystems have value in their own right, as distinct from having an instrumental value to humans.
Aesthetic: Wild rivers have significant aesthetic values to many people because of their characteristics, such as scenic beauty, solitude, natural or undeveloped qualities.
Values which may relate to all rivers which also apply to wild rivers
Indigenous: Some rivers may assist in maintaining Indigenous culture and may include sites of religious and cultural significance.
Social: Rivers and river floodplains have long been a focus for human activity (for example, settlement, transport, communications, recreation) and have thus developed significant cultural and social values as a focus for spiritual, political, national or other cultural sentiment.
Historic: Some rivers and places in river floodplains are significant for their association with important eras, events or people since European settlement.
Recreational: Wild rivers and their catchments may be attractive for a number of water-based and water-enhanced recreational or tourist activities, including: canoeing, rafting, other boating, fishing, swimming, camping, bushwalking, rock climbing, photography, painting, nature studies, sightseeing, four-wheel driving, picnicking, fossicking and hunting.
'Cave Creek', northern Kosciuszco National Park, Kiandra District, NSW. Wild rivers and their catchments provide for the study of ongoing fluvial and other geomorphic processes.
Photo: David Martin © 1998
Economic: Rivers and their catchments, including wild rivers, may have economic values for activities including water extraction, mining, forestry and agriculture.
While recognising the many values of wild rivers, these Guidelines are designed to consider impacts on the undisturbed nature of wild river systems, rather than considering impacts on all values, particularly recreational and aesthetic values.
2.1 Ecologically Sustainable Development and Integrated Catchment Management
The protection of wild river catchments contributes to the achievement of several objectives and guiding principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development, namely:
- providing for equity within and between generations;
- protecting biological diversity and maintaining essential ecological processes and life-support systems; and
- avoiding irreversible environmental damage (Biosis Research 1993, and National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development 1992).
Rotten Swamp Wilderness Area, Namadgi National Park, ACT. Wild rivers and their catchments may be attractive for a number of activities, such as, camping, bushwalking, rock climbing, photography, painting, sightseeing and nature studies.
Photo: Andrew Tatnell © 1998
From the perspective of Integrated Catchment Management (ICM), wild river catchments are valuable because:
- they are important baseline or reference areas against which the success of catchment management elsewhere can be assessed;
- they are vital for maintaining downstream water quality;
- they are part of the continuum of catchment values that ICM caters for, occupying the upper part or extreme end of the spectrum;
- they provide for habitat protection; and
- they provide recreational and aesthetic experiences not available in more altered catchments. (Biosis Research 1993).
Rocky River, Kangaroo Island, SA. Wild rivers and their catchments provide for the study of ongoing fluvial and other geomorphic processes.
Photo: Anthony Robinson © 1998