Applications and Extensions

Applications and Extensions of the River Styles Framework


Numerous extensions and applications of the River Styles® framework work have been developed, emphasising links to habitat availability, river health, aquatic ecosystem structure and function and water management. A biophysical basis with which to assess uniqueness, naturalness and geodiversity is provided. From this, priorities for river conservation and rehabilitation programs can be determined. Within- and between-catchment comparisons provide a basis for regional-level determination of priorities, strategies and techniques for river management. Reference reaches can be defined across the range of River Styles®, providing a biophysical basis for benchmarking and biomonitoring programs.

Innovation award for research

In 2007, The River Styles® Framework was awarded the Macquarie University Innovation Award for Research. This award recognizes an innovation that takes the form of a significant and novel research advantage which has the potential to deliver major benefits to the community (Australia and international), including educational, environmental, health, industrial, technological and commercial.

Applications of the River Styles framework in river management – Australia and New Zealand

The River Styles® framework has been applied across New South Wales and in many other states of Australia. Many of these are listed on the Publications page. The River Styles® framework has also been applied in the USA, Europe, China and New Zealand.

Applications of the River Styles framework as part of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) can be found here.

River Styles® now form a basis for river rehabilitation, water flow planning and ecological surveys being undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries (Office of Water) and NSW Local Land Services. It is also written into numerous catchment action plans and blueprints. Uptake of the framework by these agencies has resulted in near-state wide River Styles® coverage. This has set the benchmark for other states, in particular Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania who are now implementing similar strategies. Several publications outlining how the River Styles framework can be used in river management can be found below.

For further information on New South Wales Applications, click here.

Brierley, G.J., Fryirs, K., Outhet, D., and Massey, C.2002. Application of the River Styles framework as a basis for river management in New South Wales, Australia. Applied Geography. 22, 91-122.
Brierley, G.J., Fryirs, K., Cook, N. and Outhet, D., Raine, A., Parsons, L. and Healey M. 2011. Geomorphology in Action: Linking policy with on-the-ground actions through applications of the River Styles framework. Applied Geography, 31, 1132-1143.

Extensions of the River Styles framework: Geoecological condition and aquatic habitat assessment

The River Styles® framework has been used as a basis for assessing geoecological condition and habitat availability along rivers. A framework that examines hydraulic units has been developed and applied. See our publications list to download or finding the following manuscripts on this work.

Brierley, G.J., Cohen, T., Fryirs, K. and Brooks, A.1999. Post-European changes to the fluvial geomorphology of Bega Catchment, Australia: Implications for river ecology. Freshwater Biology, 41, 839-848.
Chessman, B.C., Fryirs, K.A. and Brierley, G.J. 2006. Linking geomorphic character, behaviour and condition to fluvial biodiversity: Implications for river rehabilitation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Research. 16, 267-288.
Thomson, J.R., Taylor, M.P. and Brierley, G.J.2004. Are River Styles ecologically meaningful? A test of the ecological relevance of a geomorphic river characterisation scheme. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Research. 14, 25-48.
Thomson, J., Taylor, M.P., Fryirs, K.A. and Brierley, G.J.2001. A geomorphological framework for river characterisation and habitat assessment. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 11, 373-389.

Application of the River Styles framework along urban waterways

The River Styles framework has also been applied in Urban settings. One application of this work occurred in Brisbane. The framework was modified for application in this setting. Details of how the framework can be used, and the proformas developed for this application are outlined in the following report, which can be downloaded as a pdf.

Fryirs, K.A. 2003. Using the River Styles® framework as a physical template upon which an anthropophysical layer can be developed for urban streams. In Water & Environment, City Design and Earth Tech Engineering Pty, Ltd. Cedar Creek River Styles Pilot Study. Report to Brisbane City Council.

Integrative river science: Using River Styles as a geomorphic template

The responsibility of scientists now lies in practicing integrated science, for our society needs integrated knowledge. From this integration should flow a sense of responsibility, including a responsibility to communicate to non-scientists the extent of destruction of the natural world and the means to mitigate or reverse this destruction.

Ellen Wohl

A major challenge of the new era of river conservation and rehabilitation is that of integrating the diverse and typically discipline-bound set of knowledge and practices. Integrative river science is considered a cross-disciplinary approach to analysis of river structure and function, emphasising concerns for the ecological integrity of river systems. There is a need for a coherent scientific platform with which to guide river rehabilitation practice. Coherent guidance for the restoration/rehabilitation process requires ‘whole of system’ thinking that moves beyond discipline-bound knowledge. In moving beyond engineering-based ‘command and control’ perspectives, more enlightened approaches to improvement of river health ‘work with’ the self-adjusting dynamics of river systems, as exemplified by the ‘living rivers’ with ‘space to move’ initiatives in Europe. Management success in endeavours to aid the recovery of aquatic ecosystems will not be achieved independent from effective use of the best scientific understanding. This is where the River Styles® framework can be successfully applied and used.

It provides a structured set of generic principles that can be used to guide river rehabilitation initiatives on a system-by-system basis and can be used as a geomorphic template atop which a range of biophysical interactions can be examined. In addressing concerns for the ecological integrity of rivers, emphasis is placed on understanding the character and behaviour of each system, its evolution and likely trajectories of change, and identification of limiting factors that may compromise the viability of habitat along the river. Such thinking is framed within a social and managerial context, emphasising a transdisciplinary approach to river management.

A book has been published on the used of geomorphology in integrative river science and management:

Brierley, G.J. and Fryirs, K.A. (Eds.) 2008. River Futures: An Integrative Scientific Approach to River Repair. Island Press, Washington DC.