Contrasting effects of geomorphic complexity on diversity of three aquatic organism groups after stream restoration
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
- Ecological theory states that greater habitat heterogeneity should support higher biodiversity. Many stream restoration projects aim to increase geomorphic complexity, assuming that this increases habitat heterogeneity and, thus, biodiversity. However, little evidence has been published that supports this theory, especially with respect to stream restoration and aquatic organisms.
- Previous assessments of stream habitat restoration have suffered from four major limitations: (1) incomplete quantification of habitat complexity metrics, (2) assessment of the responses of only one organism group, most often macroinvertebrates, (3) mismatch between scale of restoration and scale of disturbance, and (4) limited number of restoration measures applied.
- We used 12 metrics of geomorphic complexity spanning five dimensions of complexity (sediment grain size distribution, longitudinal profile, cross section, planform, and instream wood) to evaluate if the diversity, abundance and community composition of three aquatic organism groups (benthic macroinvertebrates, diatoms and macrophytes) relate positively to complexity along near-natural, restored and channelised stream reaches in rural northern Sweden where disturbance to the streams has been primarily reach-scale channelisation to facilitate timber floating.
- We found that the variation in biodiversity and abundance within each of the three organism groups could be described by multiple regression models that included only geomorphic complexity metrics, but the variation within an organism group could rarely be described by only one metric of complexity in isolation. Rather, three metrics were needed on average to describe the variation in biodiversity and abundance, and rarely did all metrics relate positively to diversity. Sediment grain size distribution metrics were most often significant as explanatory variables, but were inconsistent in the direction of influence. The other four dimensions of complexity were less consistently significant but were nearly all positively related to our diversity metrics.
- Most of the variation in these metrics was driven by advanced restoration techniques and to a lesser extent older best practice techniques. Three complexity metrics were most often included in multiple regression models as well as described community composition in ordinations: a metric quantifying heterogeneity of small sediment sizes, a metric that represents the variation in stream depth along the longitudinal profile, and instream wood metrics. Therefore, specifically these metrics could be targets for future restoration. The organism groups were not concordant in their patterns of diversity, abundance, or community composition; thus, none can be used as a surrogate in monitoring biodiversity of these sites.
- Synthesis and applications. Geomorphic complexity should be measured in multiple dimensions, and ideally in all five dimensions, to understand the full breadth of restoration impacts to which organisms could be responding. More than one organism group should be used in monitoring to ensure biodiversity goals are met. Finally, even though the scale of the restorations matched the scale of the disturbance at the reach scale, the older best practice methods of restoration rarely restored the large-scale features necessary to bring the sites up to their potential levels of complexity as these elements (large boulders, bedrock, log jams) had been destroyed or removed from the system. Although the advanced restoration sites were the youngest, advanced restoration techniques that added big boulders, coarse gravel and instream wood increased complexity to a level that elicited a biological response. Finally, the complexity level needed to elicit a biological response could be difficult to understand for a given system, so we suggest doing restoration work in an experimental way in collaboration with geomorphologists to determine what level of complexity is needed.
boreal, bioassessment, bryophyte, substrate heterogeneity, hydromorphological, large wood, river
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-108076OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-108076DiVA: diva2:850989
FunderSwedish Research Council Formas