Assessing human perceptions towards large wood in river ecosystems following flooding experiences

Mwazvita T.B. Dalu, Ross N. Cuthbert, Phumudzo Ragimana, Ashley W. Gunter, Farai Dondofema, Tatenda Dalu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large wood deposited in rivers provides ecological benefits for multiple trophic groups, but public perceptions of these deposits can be varied. In particular, flooding experiences linked to large wood debris could influence how the public and stakeholders view large wood deposited into the river ecosystem. Here, we assessed the perceptions towards large wood using groups of undergraduates, postgraduates and staff from a local university in Limpopo Province of South Africa. A survey was conducted using questionnaires, which were distributed online to a sample of 104 participants across these groups, using both visual (i.e. paired photographs of different river scenarios) and categorical questions. Large shares of respondents regularly used river systems recreationally (62.9%), with woodless systems perceived as being significantly more aesthetic, less dangerous and least in need of improvement. These perceptions, however, differed among university groups, with staff having stronger perceptions of aesthetics (median = 5.5, mean 5.4 ± 2.8), less dangerousness (median = 3.0, mean 4.2 ± 3.0) and naturalness (median = 6.0, mean 5.8 ± 2.6) towards systems with large wood. Correlation analyses indicated significant interrelatedness among perceptions of aesthetics, naturalness, danger and improvement needs. However, negative perceptions towards large wood in the river were generally not determined by any recent experience of flooding in the area, with large wood-related dangers rather associated with leisure activities in rivers by students. These results highlight a need for passing on the knowledge of natural river systems with wood to people in Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and communities' scientists and assessing wider perceptions outside of the university context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1304
Number of pages9
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number7
Early online date10 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022


  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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