TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Andrew Brooks

Andrew Brooks

Andrew Brooks
Project Leader
Griffith University

Dr Brooks is a Senior Research Fellow with the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University. He completed his PhD at Macquarie University in 1999 and subsequently led several research projects focusing on improving methods for undertaking river restoration, before shifting his focus to northern Australia.  He has spent the best part of the last decade undertaking research on the geomorphology of Australia’s tropical rivers – particularly throughout the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York.  

As part of the first phase of TRaCK research, along with colleagues John Spencer, Jeff Shellberg and Jon Knight at ARI, Dr Brooks has highlighted the significance of alluvial gully erosion as a key landscape denudation process and has led several research projects that have highlighted the sensitivity of the tropical savanna to erosion – be it associated with disturbances such as overgrazing, poorly designed roads or mining.  

He has also undertaken research on sediment transport and channel dynamics in large tropical rivers, and as part of this work, along with Jeff Shellberg from ARI, undertook what is thought to be the first trip down the Mitchell River during a major wet season flood, to collect sediment transport data.  Throughout the first phase of work and during the synthesis and adoption year, Dr Brooks was responsible for developing a universal river classification tool, which is now available online as the Australian Riverine Landscape Classifier (AURICL).  

Phase 1 Projects

Outcomes This project developed a tool describing similarities and differences in riverscapes across the region at three spatial scales.  The tool is in the form of a web-based GIS product (subject to negotiations with organisations who would host the site).  It is possible for a variety of map products to be generated from this interface. The web-based GIS product is broadly applicable for use by government agencies and regional NRM groups in planning their management actions. Different management actions are appropriate for different types of riverscape. The output from this project has been designed in a manner that can be updated as more detailed base data becomes available in the future.
Outcomes Increased sediment accumulation in river systems is one of the risks associated with water resource development, intensified land-use in catchments and potentially, climate change. By clarifying the specific flow regimes required to maintain the balance of sediment movement and deposition, this research has allowed water planners and natural resource managers to better calculate the risk that current and future water extraction and land-use may have on sediment accumulation (and thus loss of habitat) in pools. The effects of climate change on sediment movement and accumulation will be better appreciated. By better understanding how sediment is moving through the river system and the sources of sediment, land managers can better prioritise remediation works for erosion control. For conservation planners, Indigenous land holders and recreational fishers, this research has clarified the nature and extent of the threat posed by sedimentation to waterhole dependent flora and fauna and their associated natural, cultural and social values.