Streamflow and stream salinity in a small water supply catchment in southwest Western Australia after reforestation

Borg, H., et al., 1988. Journal of Hydrology

Original research (primary data)
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In the mid-1970s high salinities developed in the Padbury reservoir in southwest Western Australia due to the conversion of 80% of its catchment from native forest to farmland in previous decades. Between 1977 and 1983 some 70% of this farmland was planted with pines and eucalypts. Most of the slopes were reforested, but only some of the valleys. In 1978 a gauging station was established in the catchment to monitor the effect of reforestation on streamflow and stream salinity. Results obtained by the end of 1986 are presented here. Reforestation led to a substantial and continuous reduction in streamflow. There was also a steady reduction in salt discharge from the catchment. In most years the reduction in streamflow outweighed the reduction in salt discharge. Stream salinity was therefore generally higher than it would have been without reforestation. Since 1978, when hydrologic monitoring began, the annual rainfall was generally below the long-term mean of 880 mm, and often below 800 mm. While these dry conditions were at least partly responsible for the increases in stream salinity, it is not known whether salinity would have decreased in all years if the rainfall had been normal. It is argued that completely replanting the valleys would have resulted in lower stream salinities. If rainfall had been normal, or if the valleys had been planted, and particularly with a combination of the two, reforestation may have resulted in a general decrease in stream salinity. Yet, any salinity benefit due to reforestation must be balanced against the concurrent reduction in streamflow. For a small water supply catchment like the one described here, reforestation may therefore not be an appropriate strategy to alleviate salinity problems. However, it is shown that reforestation is useful in large salt-affected catchments in the region where the areas which contribute most of the salt generate only little of the streamflow.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-187-1
  • Intervention type: Mixed created/non-created habitats
  • Intervention description:

    Between 1977 and 1'983all suitable areas were planted with pines, and the others with eucalypts (Table 1, Fig. 1). The pines were planted at a density of 1100-1330 stems ha 1 and were thinned to 500-700 stems ha-~ after six years of growth. The eucalypts were planted at a density of 625 stems ha 1and were not thinned. Some 70% of the previously cleared land was reforested during this period. Most of the slopes were planted, but only some of the valleys, the remainder being left under pasture with scattered remnants of the original eucalyptus forest.

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Reduced water quality  Negative Stream water salinity (mg/LTSS)
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    The Padbury reservoir catchment is located in southwest Western Australia, about 180 km south of Perth. It has a catchment area of 196.4 ha

  • Country: Australia
  • Habitat/Biome type: Created forest | Mediterranean shrubs and Forests |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined by assessing change in parameters (Stream water salinity (mg/LTSS) over time since start of intervention (from a baseline). However, low rainfall likely compounded the problem. they state however that in large salt-affected catchments, reforestation may be beneficial in regions where the areas which contribute most of the salt generate only little of the streamflow.
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures: N/A
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures: N/A
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: