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Riverine large woody debris introduced for natural flood management leads to rapid improvement in aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity

Deane, A, Norrey, J, Coulthard, E ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8935-9092, McKendry, DC and Dean, AP (2021) Riverine large woody debris introduced for natural flood management leads to rapid improvement in aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity. Ecological Engineering, 163. ISSN 0925-8574

[img] Accepted Version
File will be available on: 22 February 2023.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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Abstract

Natural flood management interventions, such as Large Wood Debris (LWD) or engineered log jams, are being increasingly deployed throughout the UK and elsewhere. In addition to alleviating flood risk, it is anticipated that they may influence the ecology of freshwater river systems, including macroinvertebrate populations. This study explores macroinvertebrate assemblages, water quality parameters, and sediment size distribution in a headwater stream following the addition of LWD as part of a natural flood management scheme. The study area consists of 6 sites within the intervention zone where LWD log jams were implemented, with comparative control sites upstream and downstream (3 sites each). Macroinvertebrate communities, sediment size distribution, and water chemistry were sampled 3 and 10 months following the addition of LWD. Our findings revealed increased macroinvertebrate abundance and taxa richness in the LWD intervention zone versus control, with an increased BMWP score reflecting the increased taxa richness. Average Score Per Taxon, and water chemistry showed no change, revealing invertebrate changes to be independent of water quality. NMDS and hierarchical clustering analysis on invertebrate data showed a clear separation of communities where LWD was present from those with no LWD, while SIMPER analysis showed that LWD addition led to the rapid establishment of taxa (Hydraenidae, Rhyacophilidae, Scirtidae, and Elmidae) that were otherwise absent. Ten months after LWD addition, improved biodiversity was also found in areas below the intervention zone, suggesting the positive impacts of LWD extend downstream. LWD also altered sediments, with sites immediately upstream of LWD log jams having a greater percentage of fine sediment than those immediately downstream. These results suggest that biological complexity and niche availability increased within the in-channel zone as a result of introduced LWD, thus revealing wider aquatic habitat improvement potential of LWD for natural flood management. The use of LWD as an intervention for flood management is recommended for its additional benefits for ecosystem health.

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