Environment Ol’ man river’s million-year meander

Ol’ man river’s million-year meander

It’s possibly one of the slowest journeys ever made in Australia.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong have discovered it can take a million years or more for sediment to travel from the Great Dividing Range to the mouth of the Murray River.

It starts its life in the mountains where erosion breaks down rock into dirt and soil.

At the same time, information about the climate and geology is imprinted on the sediment itself.

Then it makes its way down the mountain, along rivers, where it’s dumped and buried and tends to have some long stop overs that can last thousands of years.

So long in fact, says lead author, Dr Reka Fulop, that the information carried by the sediment is often lost.

“At every stop on this very long journey, there is an opportunity for the message (environmental signal) that each parcel of sediment carries to be altered or erased,” she said.

Researchers believe the million-year transit time is likely to be characteristic of river systems globally which probably limits the amount of information that can be derived from sediment deposits.

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