Review: Vegetation of Australian Riverine Landscapes

The Book – Vegetation of Australian Riverine Landscapes (Biology, Ecology and Management)
The Editors – Samantha Capon, Cassandra James, and Michael Reid

Riverine ecosystems are dynamic and diverse, and are strongly influenced by the flora that inhabit them. However, not only it is important to acknowledge how riverine plants influence their environment, but also to appreciate the processes that sustain our riverine vegetation. Vegetation of Australian Riverine Landscapes aims to encourage this appreciation, and to inspire interest in these fascinating landscapes.

Split into four sections, this book discusses the natural processes and anthropogenic impacts that affect the riverine vegetation of Australia, while also describing key taxa and the adaptations and life histories that allow them to exist in riverine habitats. The editors of this book hope that their text ‘fosters awareness of the incredible diversity and dynamic nature of riverine vegetation across Australia both for its own sake and for its vital functional role.’

The first section explores the spatial and temporal characteristics of riverine landscapes in Australia, and describes the diverse habitats determined by those characteristics. The history of our riverine vegetation is described, taking the reader on a journey from Australia’s most recent glacial period, through the Holocene, and into the present. This section also discusses the anthropogenic effects that alter our riverine habitats.

Section Two, named ‘Riverine plants’, discusses the key plant groups that are found in riverine habitats. Inconspicuous yet widespread, the bryophytes, aquatic algae, and charophytes are emphasised as functionally significant taxa in riverine environments. The diversity of vascular aquatic macrophytes and riparian herbs is discussed in this section, as is the ecology and life history characteristics that allow these taxa to survive in dynamic riverine environments. The larger, most noticeable species - the trees and shrubs - are also described in this section.

The third section in this book describes the riverine habitats of five major regions of the Australian continent, and how the vegetation varies depending on each region’s geographic location and climate. The floodplains and wetlands along the south-east coast of Australia are explored, including mangrove communities, coastal salt marshes, and brackish meadows. In contrast, the chapter devoted to inland south-eastern Australia describes the floristic characteristics of the Murray-Darling Basin as being dominated by woodland, forest and shrubland communities. The riparian vegetation of treeless high country is also discussed, as is the riparian vegetation of tropical northern Australia and the vegetation of desert river landscapes.

Finally, the authors describe the main management concerns regarding the riverine ecosystems of Australia. These include the consideration of various threats to our riverine landscapes, including water management, salinisation, fire, grazing and weeds. For example, while reviewing this book I learnt that at present there are over 3000 invasive plant species growing wild in Australia. These weeds account for 13% of Australia’s flora.  Luckily, restoration practices and monitoring techniques are also examined in this section.

Vegetation of Australian Riverine Landscapes lives true to its name, and provides an in-depth description of the plants and processes that are found in our Australian freshwater environments. Written in a succinct manner and with concise graphs and maps, this text will serve anyone interested in learning more about our riverine landscapes.

This book belongs on your bookshelf if… you're a student studying riverine ecosystems, you're interested in plants and how they adapt to their environment or if you're involved in land management.