'Relating with rivers': geomorphic river recovery as a relational, physical-and-social process
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:15 authored by Simon Mould
In most cases, rehabilitation efforts are most effective when they work with geomorphic processes and support already-occurring recovery processes. However, analysis of river recovery is most often undertaken from a physical science perspective and neglects important social processes, and relationships between physical and social processes, which also contribute to river recovery. This thesis investigates social and physical dimensions of river recovery, drawing on the Macdonald River in NSW, Australia as a case study. The thesis begins by contextualising geomorphic recovery from historical flood impacts within a sociogeomorphic history. This history is used as a basis for developing possible future trajectories in support of river management prioritisation and planning. The thesis then investigates the role of relationships, between people and between people and place, in enabling and limiting river recovery. First, this is achieved with analysis of landholders' motivations and values with respect to participation in river rehabilitation, and the relational factors that enable or prevent translation of those motivations and values into participatory actions. Second, this thesis investigates relationships within professional communities of practice, revealing the critical importance of social networks in the development, sharing and application of recovery-based river rehabilitation practices. Analysis of relational dynamics in communities of practice informs characterisation of 'River Champions' as particularly influential individuals who drive river rehabilitation, along with considerations for supporting them in communities of practice. This thesis concludes with a discussion that aims to advance development of relational practices in recovery-based river rehabilitation. The proposed agenda includes: (i) adoption of integrative frameworks for understanding physical-and-social landscapes; (ii) repositioning of the researcher and practitioner within the system being managed; (iii) investment in supportive communities of practice capable of nurturing productive relationships; and, (iv) prioritisation of dialogue as a means for developing and maintaining the kinds of relationships that enable river recovery. This thesis serves the development of river research and management practices that recognise and work with the physical-and social nature of river systems in order to achieve stronger environmental and social outcomes in river management.