1. Elaborate restoration attempts are underway worldwide to return human-impacted rivers to more natural conditions. Assessing the outcome of river restoration projects is vital for adaptive management, evaluating project efficiency, optimising future programmes and gaining public acceptance. An important reason why assessment is often omitted is lack of appropriate guidelines. 2. Here we present guidelines for assessing river restoration success. They are based on a total of 49 indicators and 13 specific objectives elaborated for the restoration of low- to mid-order rivers in Switzerland. Most of these objectives relate to ecological attributes of rivers, but socio-economic aspects are also considered. 3. A strategy is proposed according to which a set of indicators is selected from the total of 49 indicators to ensure that indicators match restoration objectives and measures, and that the required effort for survey and analysis of indicators is appropriate to the project budget. 4. Indicator values are determined according to methods described in detailed method sheets. Restoration success is evaluated by comparing indicator values before and after restoration measures have been undertaken. To this end, values are first standardised on a dimensionless scale ranging from 0 to 1, then averaged across different indicators for a given project objective, and finally assigned to one of five overall success categories. 5. To illustrate the application of this scheme, a case study on the Thur River, Switzerland, is presented. Seven indicators were selected to meet a total of five project objectives. The project was successful in achieving 'provision of high recreational value', 'lateral connectivity' and 'vertical connectivity' but failed to meet the objectives 'morphological and hydraulic variability' and 'near natural abundance and diversity of fauna'. Results from this assessment allowed us to identify potential deficits and gaps in the restoration project. To gain information on the sensitivity of the assessment scheme would require a set of complementary indicators for each restoration objective.
Woolsey, S.; Capelli, F.; Gonser, T.; Hoehn, E.; Hostmann, M.; Junker, B.; Paetzold, A.; Roulier, C.; Schweizer, S.; Tiegs, S. D.; Tockner, K.; Weber, C.; Peter, A. (2007) A strategy to assess river restoration success, Freshwater Biology, 52(4), 752-769, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2427.2007.01740.x, Institutional Repository
Patchiness of river-groundwater interactions within two floodplain landscapes and diversity of aquatic invertebrate communities
In fluvial systems, the interactions between rivers and groundwater significantly affect various ecological structures (for example, riparian vegetation) and functions. To examine the effects of hydrological exchange between groundwater and surface water on the distribution of aquatic invertebrates within a riverine landscape, we investigated the main stem, tributaries, and various surface and subsurface waters of two floodplains of a southern Alpine river (Brenno, Switzerland) in terms of their physicochemical, hydraulic, substratum, and faunal characteristics. The origins of the water were investigated by analyzing geomorphic settings and physicochemical variables. The two floodplains had different hydrological regimes. The middle floodplain was dominated by lateral inputs and exfiltration of hillslope groundwater from two different subcatchments. Bank filtration of river water sustained subsurface water only close to the channel. The aquatic habitats of the middle floodplain formed a rather homogeneous group with high taxon richness and intrahabitat diversities. These aquatic habitats resembled mountain springbrooks in their physicochemical characteristics and faunal compositions. In the lower floodplain, the exchange between river water and groundwater was more extensive. The aquatic floodplain habitats of the lower floodplain were fed mainly by deep and shallow alluvial groundwater, hyporheic exfiltration, and partly by surface water. In contrast to aquatic habitats of the middle floodplain, habitats of the lower floodplain showed a low intrahabitat and a high interhabitat diversity in terms of both substrate characteristics and faunal compositions. For both floodplains, ordination analyses showed a high concordance between the structure of the invertebrate community and the characteristics of the environmental habitat, including chemical, geomorphic, and hydraulic variables. Ordinations grouped aquatic habitats according to the origins of the waters. Taxon richness was related to local structural diversity, but species turnover was related to differential vertical and lateral connectivity. Exfiltration of groundwaters provided aquatic floodplain habitats for several specialized species. The results of this study show the significance of the river-groundwater connectivity for the creation of the habitat mosaic that sustains biodiversity in floodplains and thus have important implications for managing the ecological integrity of floodplains.
Brunke, M.; Hoehn, E.; Gonser, T. (2003) Patchiness of river-groundwater interactions within two floodplain landscapes and diversity of aquatic invertebrate communities, Ecosystems, 6(8), 707-722, doi:10.1007/Pl00021501, Institutional Repository
The boundaries of river systems: the metazoan perspective
1. This overview of metazoans associated with the riparian/groundwater interface focuses on the fauna inhabiting substratum interstices within the stream bed and in alluvial aquifers beneath the floodplain. The objective is to integrate knowledge of habitat conditions and ecology of the interstitial fauna into a broad spatiotemporal perspective of lotic ecosystems. 2. Most aquatic metazoans of terrestrial ancestry, secondarily aquatic forms including insects and water mites (Hydracarina), are largely confined to surface waters (epigean), most of the time penetrating only the superficial interstices of the stream bed. 3. Primary aquatic metazoans include crustaceans and other groups whose entire evolutionary histories took place in water. Some species are epigean, whereas other members of the primary aquatic fauna are true subterranean forms (hypogean), residing deep within the stream bed and in alluvial aquifers some distance laterally from the channel. 4. The hypogean/epigean affinities of interstitial animals are reflected in repetitive gradients of species distribution patterns along vertical (depth within the stream bed), longitudinal (riffle/pool), and lateral (across the floodplain) spatial dimensions, as well as along recovery trajectories following floods (temporal dimension). 5. Fluvial dynamics and sediment characteristics interact to determine hydraulic conductivity, oxygen levels, pore space, particle size heterogeneity, organic content and other habitat conditions within the interstitial milieu. 6. Multidimensional environmental gradients occur at various scales across riparian/ groundwater boundary zones. The spatiotemporal variability of hydrogeomorphological processes plays an important role in determining habitat heterogeneity, habitat stability, and connectivity between habitat patches, thereby structuring biodiversity patterns across the riverine landscape. 7. The erosive action of flooding maintains a diversity of hydrarch and riparian successional stages in alluvial floodplains. The patchy distribution patterns of interstitial communities at the floodplain scale reflect, in part, the spatial heterogeneity engendered by successional processes. 8. Interstitial metazoans engage in passive and active movements between surface waters and ground waters, between aquatic and riparian habitats, and between different habitat types within the lotic system. Some of these are extensive migrations that involve significant exchange of organic matter and energy between ecosystem compartments. 9. The generally high resilience of lotic ecosystems to disturbance is attributable, in part, to high spatiotemporal heterogeneity. Habitat patches less affected by a particular perturbation may serve as 'refugia' from which survivors recolonize more severely affected areas. Mechanisms of refugium use may also occur within habitats, as, for example, through ontogenetic shifts in microhabitat use. Rigorous investigations of interstitial habitats as refugia should lead to a clearer understanding of the roles of disturbance and stochasticity in lotic ecosystems. 10. Development of realistic 'whole river' food webs have been constrained by the exclusion of interstitial metazoans, which may in fact contribute the majority of energy flow in lotic ecosystems. A related problem is failure to include groundwater/riparian habitats as integral components of alluvial rivers. A conceptual model is presented that integrates groundwater and riparian systems into riverine food webs and that reflects the spatiotemporal complexity of the physical system and connectivity between different components. 11. Interstitial metazoans also serve as 'ecosystem engineers,' by influencing the availability of resouces to other species and by modifying habitat conditions within the sediment. For example, by grazing on biofilm, interstitial animals may markedly stimulate bacterial growth rates and nutrient dynamics. 12. Although there has been a recent surge of interest in the role of interstitial animals in running waters, the knowledge gays are vast. For example, basic environmental requirements of the majority of groundwater metazoans remain uninvestigated. Virtually nothing is known regarding the role of biotic interactions in structuring faunal distribution patterns across groundwater/riparian boundary zones. Interstitial metazoans may contribute significantly to the total productivity and energy flow of the biosphere, but such data are not available. Nor are sufficient data available to determine the contribution of groundwater animals to estimates of global biodiversity. 13. Effective ecosystem management must include groundwater/riparian ecotones and interstitial metazoans in monitoring and restoration efforts. Evidence suggests that a 'connected' groundwater/riparian system provides natural pollution control, prevents clogging of sediment interstices and maintains high levels of habitat heterogeneity and successional stage diversity. River protection and restoration should maintain or re-establish at least a portion of the natural fluvial dynamics that sustains the ecological integrity of the entire riverine-floodplain- aquifer ecosystem.
The ecological significance of exchange processes between rivers and groundwater
1. This review focuses on the connectivity between river and groundwater ecosystems, viewing them as linked components of a hydrological continuum. Ecological processes that maintain the integrity of both systems and those that are mediated by their ecotones are evaluated. 2. The hyporheic zone, as the connecting ecotone, shows diverse gradients. Thus it can be characterized by hydrological, chemical, zoological and metabolic criteria. However, the characteristics of the hyporheic zone tend to vary widely in space and time as well as from system to system. The exact limits are difficult to designate and the construction of static concepts is inadequate for the representation of ecological processes. The hyporheic interstices are functionally a part of both the fluvial and groundwater ecosystems. 3. The permeability of the ecotone depends on the hydraulic conductivity of the sediment layers which, because of their heterogeneity, form many flowpath connections between the stream and the catchment, from the small scale of a single microhabitat to the large scale of an entire alluvial aquifer. Local up- and downwellings are determined by geomorphologic features such as streambed topography, whereas large-scale exchange processes are determined mainly by the geological properties of the catchment. Colmation—clogging of the top layer of the channel sediments—includes all processes leading to a reduction of pore volume, consolidation of the sediment matrix, and decreased permeability of the stream bed. Consequently, colmation can hinder exchange processes between surface water and groundwater. 4. Physicochemical gradients in the interstices result from several processes: (i) hyporheic flow pattern and the different properties of surface and groundwaters; (ii) retention, caused by the filtering effect of pore size and lithologic sorption as well as the transient storage of solutes caused by diminished water velocities; (iii) biogeochemical transformations in conjunction with local residence time. Each physicochemical parameter may develop its own vertical dynamics laterally from the active channel into the banks as well as longitudinally because of geomorphologic changes. 5. The river-groundwater interface can act as a source or sink for dissolved organic matter, depending on the volume and direction of flow, dissolved organic carbon concentrations and biotic activity. Interstitial storage of particulate organic matter is influenced mainly by grain size distribution and by spates involving bedload movement that may import or release matter, depending on the season. After initial transient and abiotic storage, hyporheic organic matter is mobilized and transformed by the biota. Micro-organisms account for over 90% of the community respiration. In subterranean waters most bacteria are attached to surfaces and remain in a biofilm. 6. Hyporheic interstices are functionally significant for phreatic and riverine metazoans because they act as a refuge against adverse conditions. The net flow direction exerts a dominant influence on interstitial colonization, but many other factors also seem to be important in structuring the hyporheos. 7. The hyporheic corridor concept emphasizes connectivity and interactions between subterranean and surface flow on an ecosystem level for floodplain rivers. It is a complementary concept to others which focus on surficial processes in the lateral and longitudinal dimensions. 8. The ecological integrity of groundwater and fluvial systems is often threatened by human activities: (i) by reducing connectivity; (ii) by altering exchange processes; and (iii) by toxic or organic contamination.