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Beyond cool: Adapting upland streams for climate change using riparian woodlands


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Managed adaptation could reduce the risks of climate change to the world’s ecosystems, but there have been surprisingly few practical evaluations of the options available. For example, riparian woodland is advocated widely as shade to reduce warming in temperate streams, but few studies have considered collateral effects on species composition or ecosystem functions. Here, we use cross sectional analyses at two scales (region and within streams) to investigate whether four types of riparian management, including those proposed to reduce potential climate change impacts, might also affect the composition, functional character, dynamics and energetic resourcing of macroinvertebrates in upland Welsh streams (UK). Riparian land use across the region had only small effects on invertebrate taxonomic composition, while stable isotope data showed how energetic resources assimilated by macroinvertebrates in all functional guilds were split roughly 50:50 between terrestrial and aquatic origins irrespective of riparian management. Nevertheless, streams draining the most extensive deciduous woodland had the greatest stocks of coarse particulate matter (CPOM) and greater numbers of “shredding” detritivores. Stream-scale investigations showed that macroinvertebrate biomass in deciduous woodland streams was around twice that in moorland streams, and lowest of all in streams draining non-native conifers. The unexpected absence of contrasting terrestrial signals in the isotopic data implies that factors other than local land use affect the relative incorporation of allochthonous subsidies into riverine food webs. Nevertheless, our results reveal how planting deciduous riparian trees along temperate headwaters as an adaptation to climate change can modify macroinvertebrate function, increase biomass and potentially enhance resilience by increasing basal resources where cover is extensive (>60m riparian width). We advocate greater urgency in efforts to understand the ecosystem consequences of climate change adaptation in order to guide future actions.
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Received Date : 24-Feb-2015
Accepted Date : 21-Aug-2015
Article type : Primary Research Articles
Beyond cool: adapting upland streams for climate change using riparian woodlands
1. Catchment Research Group, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Sir Martin
Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX, UK.
2. Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65, FI-00014,
*Correspondence: Department of Fish Ecology and Evolution, EAWAG Swiss Federal Institute
of Aquatic Science and Technology, Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry,
Seestrasse 79, CH-6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland. Email:
Running head: Riparian woodlands and climate change adaptation
Keywords: Adaptation, buffer strip, CPOM, isotope, macroinvertebrate, river, subsidy
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Type of Paper: Primary Research Article
Managed adaptation could reduce the risks of climate change to the world’s ecosystems, but there
have been surprisingly few practical evaluations of the options available. For example, riparian
woodland is advocated widely as shade to reduce warming in temperate streams, but few studies
have considered collateral effects on species composition or ecosystem functions. Here, we use
cross sectional analyses at two scales (region and within streams) to investigate whether four
types of riparian management, including those proposed to reduce potential climate change
impacts, might also affect the composition, functional character, dynamics and energetic
resourcing of macroinvertebrates in upland Welsh streams (UK).
Riparian land use across the region had only small effects on invertebrate taxonomic composition,
while stable isotope data showed how energetic resources assimilated by macroinvertebrates in all
functional guilds were split roughly 50:50 between terrestrial and aquatic origins irrespective of
riparian management. Nevertheless, streams draining the most extensive deciduous woodland had
the greatest stocks of coarse particulate matter (CPOM) and greater numbers of “shredding”
detritivores. Stream-scale investigations showed that macroinvertebrate biomass in deciduous
woodland streams was around twice that in moorland streams, and lowest of all in streams
draining non-native conifers.
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The unexpected absence of contrasting terrestrial signals in the isotopic data implies that factors
other than local land use affect the relative incorporation of allochthonous subsidies into riverine
food webs. Nevertheless, our results reveal how planting deciduous riparian trees along temperate
headwaters as an adaptation to climate change can modify macroinvertebrate function, increase
biomass and potentially enhance resilience by increasing basal resources where cover is extensive
(>60m riparian width). We advocate greater urgency in efforts to understand the ecosystem
consequences of climate change adaptation in order to guide future actions.
Although reducing greenhouse gas emissions is fundamental to mitigating future climate change,
there is growing expectation that further increase in global temperature cannot now be avoided
(IPCC, 2014). Interest is growing, therefore, in strategies for climate change adaptation that
might minimize the worst effects on key resources (Perry, 2015). These include organisms,
ecosystems and the many services that they provide, and as a result ecologists have been among
the strongest advocates for climate change adaptation (Hulme, 2005; Dudgeon et al., 2006; Seavy
et al., 2009). The broad aims involve predicting the effects on vulnerable species or habitats,
increasing their resilience, maintaining sensitive species or assemblages, restoring lost
connectivity, reducing the stressors with which climate change interacts, and providing security
for critical ecosystems (Hulme, 2005; Ormerod, 2009; Palmer et al. 2009; Seavy et al., 2009). So
far, however, there are few specific examples where approaches advocated in theory have been
evaluated in practice (Mawdsley et al., 2009; Macgregor & van Dijk, 2014). This is an important
knowledge gap given the extent of actions likely to be required to adapt ecosystems to climate
change, and because of the potentially far-reaching effects on the risks, benefits and services that
might arise.
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Stream and river ecosystems have figured strongly in the adaptation debate for two major
reasons. First, they have major global value to human life support, for example through water
supply, flood regulation, pollutant disposal, support for major biogeochemical cycles, and critical
roles in fisheries (Holmlund & Hammer, 1999; Wilson & Carpenter, 1999; Ormerod, 2009).
Secondly, streams and rivers are among the most sensitive of all ecosystems to climate change
because they are coupled directly to the global hydrological cycle, linked closely to atmospheric
thermal regimes, and at risk from interactions between climate change and existing anthropogenic
stressors (Dudgeon et al., 2006; Ormerod & Durance, 2007; Ormerod et al., 2010). Moreover,
because the majority of riverine organisms are poikilothermic, they are affected metabolically
both by direct temperature change and by interactions between water temperature and oxygen
solubility (Graham & Harrod, 2009; Jonsson & Jonsson, 2009). Many freshwater ecosystems are
also coupled tightly to the surrounding riparian zones, floodplains and catchments through lateral
or longitudinal fluxes of energy that are under strong climatic influence (Nakano & Murakami,
2001; Wipfli, 2005). This includes the delivery, processing and downstream transport of detrital
carbon from terrestrial litter-fall that then acts as an important basis of production throughout
whole river systems (Vannote et al., 1980; Malmqvist, 2002).
Broad suggestions for adapting rivers to climate change are the same as for other ecosystems and
include enhancing resilience, connectivity and legal protection while reducing stressors such as
water quality impairment (Durance & Ormerod, 2009; Ormerod, 2009; Palmer et al., 2009).
However, some proposed adaptation strategies are specific to rivers such as reducing abstraction
(i.e. the active removal of water for human usage) and using riparian forest to buffer rivers
against temperature gain to protect sensitive organisms (Ormerod, 2009; Broadmeadow et al.,
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2011). Enhancing or restoring riparian tree cover is advocated particularly in temperate regions
where much native forest has been removed for agriculture (Battin et al., 2007; Palmer et al.,
2009; Seavy et al., 2009). Already, the value of such “buffer strips” in moderating stream
temperature is well supported by evidence (Zoellick, 2004; Battin et al., 2007; Broadmeadow et
al., 2011), some of it from our own study region (Weatherley & Ormerod 1990; Clews et al.
In addition to moderating thermal conditions in rivers, riparian woodlands might aid climate
change adaptation through effects on ecological processes, for example by soil denitrification,
nutrient flux and sediment delivery from agricultural land (Osbourne & Kovacic, 1993;
Broadmeadow & Nisbet, 2004; Larsen et al., 2009). More generally, riparian trees might affect
important aspects of stream and river energetics through two major pathways. First, shading
along streams is likely to reduce autotrophic productivity, potentially limiting resources for some
consumers (Hill et al., 1995; Kiffney et al., 2003; 2004; Riley et al., 2009). Secondly, increased
inputs of terrestrial organic matter from trees might provide important subsidies for consumers
linked to allochthony either in the form of abscised leaf litter (Wallace et al., 1997; Abelho, 2001)
or terrestrial invertebrates (Nakano & Murakami, 2001). Understanding any such collateral
effects on important river organisms such as macroinvertebrates could aid decisions on where and
when to use of riparian trees for shade and thermal damping. Additionally, allochthonous
energetic subsidies might increase stream ecosystem resilience to global change by increasing in-
stream biomass (Moore et al., 1993; Wallace et al., 1997; Muotka & Laasonen, 2002). There is a
need to assess whether smaller riparian ‘buffers’ of native woodland could provide such benefits
when used as climate change adaptation in the riparian zones of catchments managed for
agriculture or production forestry in an attempt to mimic more extensive woodland
(Broadmeadow & Nisbet, 2004; Wahl et al., 2013).
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A major difficulty in assessing the effects of riparian woodlands in climate change adaptation is
that several decades of tree growth are required between implementation of the concept and the
full realization of effects on stream systems. Elsewhere, however, we have used cross-sectional
comparison between sites with existing riparian broadleaves and other land uses to develop
predictions about possible effects on stream fishes (Thomas et al., 2015). The same study also
incorporated modern ecological methods – specifically stable isotopic analysis – as a means of
assessing energetic linkages between terrestrial subsidies and aquatic organisms (Rybczynski et
al., 2008; Ishikawa et al., 2012). Allochthonous and autochthonous production in streams is often
distinct enough isotopically to estimate their relative origins in freshwater organisms and hence to
appraise land use effects on their resource use (Doucett et al., 1996; Ishikawa et al., 2012). We
know of no study, however, where these or other techniques have been used to assess the
potential energetic effects of riparian adaptation strategies on macroinvertebrates – among the
most functionally important of all stream organisms. In combination, stable isotopic data,
quantitative estimates of macroinvertebrate biomass and taxonomic comparisons among streams
draining different land-use types can help to assess the putative consequences of variations in
riparian tree cover that could arise from climate change adaptation.
Here, we use cross-sectional comparisons at two scales (region and within-streams) among
replicate temperate streams in contrasting land use to test the hypothesis that climate change
adaptation using broadleaves can modify macroinvertebrate function and composition by
changing energetic pathways. Specific predictions were that (i) streams draining deciduous
woodland would be characterised by an increased abundance and biomass of leaf-shredding
invertebrates, due to increased inputs of terrestrial organic matter; (ii) resource use in
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invertebrates in deciduous woodland streams would reflect terrestrial production more than in
grassland streams; and (iii) riparian deciduous ‘buffers’ would approximate the effects on
invertebrate composition and resource use in more extensive catchment woodland.
Materials and Methods
Study sites
Sites were located in and around the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales, UK (51° 51'
46'' N, 3° 22' 41'' W Fig SM1) and the area has been described previously (Thomas et al., 2015).
Briefly, the region is temperate (1.1 °C - 19.1 °C mean min to mean max temperature; mean
annual rainfall is 1433 mm), with brown earth, gleys and occasionally peaty soils that mostly
overlay Devonian Old Red Sandstone drained by unpolluted, circumneutral and oligotrophic
headwaters (pH: ~6.5 – 7.5; conductivity: ~20 – 400 μS; Ca
: ~5 – 40 mg l
; NO
-: ~1 – 10 mg l
; PO
: ~0 mg l
). Temperate deciduous woodlands would form the climax vegetation, but most
land is now used for rough sheep grazing and commercial forestry with non-native conifers. As
such, the area is generally representative of upland land use patterns throughout the UK and
western Europe more generally. Moreover, such habitats represent ideal candidates for
management adaptations, as they are predicted to experience summer temperature increases of
around 4 – 5 °C by the 2080s (compared to historical averages) as a direct result of climate
change (UKCP09 medium emissions scenario; Murphy et al., 2009). Warming effects are already
apparent in the region, with increases in mean temperatures of 1.4 – 1.7 ˚C over the 25 years
between 1980 and 2005 (Durance and Ormerod, 2007), leading to local species extinction
(Durance & Ormerod 2010).
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Series ICP-MS: Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) and b) anions by ion chromatography (Dionex
DX-80 Ion Analyser; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.). Conductivity, pH and total dissolved solids
(ppm) were assessed immediately following a storm event in October 2011, as these values are
typically at their most extreme during high flow (Kowalik et al., 2007). Three replicate readings
were taken at each 10m interval within each study reach using a Hanna HI 98129 low-range
pH/Conductivity/TDS Tester (Hanna Instruments, Ltd.)
Regional macroinvertebrate communities
During May-June 2010, benthic macroinvertebrates were collected from a 30 m reach at all 24
sites by separate kick-sample (D-frame kick net: net mesh 1 mm) respectively in riffles (i.e. fast-
flowing environments in the centre of the stream; 2 minute sampling duration) and marginal
habitats (i.e. slow-flowing depositional areas within 1m of the stream bank; 1 minute sampling
duration), and preserved in 70 % ethanol. This standardised procedure collects around 70 % of
species present at any one site and sufficient to detect differences among similar hillstreams, and
is based on methods developed over 25 years (Bradley & Ormerod, 2002). Separating riffle and
marginal samples provide a more representative species pool while also recording communities in
contrastingly eroding/depositing environments where Coarse Particulate Organic Matter (CPOM)
might accumulate (Bradley & Ormerod, 2002).
Kick-sample contents were sieved at 500 µm, sorted and identified as far as was practically
feasible, mostly species or genus except for Diptera (Athericidae, Ceratopogonidae,
Chironomidae, Pedicidae, Simuliidae, Tabanidae, Tipulidae) and some Coleoptera (Dytiscidae,
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Gyrindiae, Scirtidae), which were identified to family. Annelida were identified to subclass.
Ephemeropterans collected from marginal areas at site MO2 deteriorated during storage and this
site was excluded from some analyses. Using available data bases, taxa were assigned to one of
five functional feeding groups, according to the classification of Cummins and Klug (1979):
“Shredders” process coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM: principally decaying leaf litter and
riparian grasses); “Grazers” are primarily dependent on in-stream primary production,
predominantly epilithic algae; “Collector-Gatherers”, referred to as detritivores under some
classifications (Moog, 1995), utilise benthic fine particulate organic matter (FPOM); “Filterers”
obtain suspended materials from the water column; “Predators” capture and consume other
animal taxa (Moog 1995; Meritt and Cummins 1996; Hauer & Lamberti 2006).
Macroinvertebrate and CPOM within streams
In February, June and October of 2011 and 2012 (i.e. 6 occasions), macroinvertebrates and
CPOM standing stock were collected from fast-flowing riffles at the smaller sub-set of eight of
the 24 sites in 5 x 0.07 m
quantitative Hess samplers (Hess, 1941; upstream net: 1 mm mesh;
downstream net: 500 µm mesh; EFE-UK and GB Nets Ltd., UK). Samples were immediately
preserved in 70% Industrial Methylated Spirits (IMS: Fisher Scientific UK). Following treatment
as above for kick samples, all macroinvertebrate individuals from each taxon and sample were
transferred to glass vials for drying at 60 ˚C for 48 h and weighing to the nearest 0.1 mg.
Biomass data were expressed per m
of streambed. CPOM, defined as all non-woody vascular
plant material > 1 mm
(Cummins, 1974), was rinsed from each sample into a 1 mm sieve, and
also dried, weighed and converted to m
estimates of standing stock.
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Stable isotopes
Samples for stable isotope analysis were collected from all 24 study sites twice over the annual
cycle in May - June 2010 and again during January 2011. Benthic macroinvertebrates came from
kick-samples from which dominant macroinvertebrate taxa representing each major Functional
Feeding Group were removed on the bank-side, transferred to screw-top plastic vials and frozen
at -18 ºC within 8 hours. Later-instar individuals were collected preferentially to minimise effects
of ontogenetic dietary shifts (Dobson & Hildrew, 1992). Grazers were represented by heptageniid
and baetid mayflies; Shredders by leuctrid and nemourid stoneflies along with the amphipod
Gammarus pulex; Filterers by the Hydropsychidae (Trichoptera) and Simullidae (Diptera); and
Predators by the Perlidae, Chloroperlidae (Plecoptera) and Rhyacophilidae (Trichoptera).
Aggregate CPOM samples, mostly decaying broadleaf litter or riparian grasses from terrestrial
production, were collected simultaneously from the streambed, while epilithic biofilm (hereafter,
epilithon) representing in-stream primary production was scraped from the upper surfaces of
streambed rocks. Samples were frozen as above. Based on invertebrate body size (10 – 100 mg),
average stream water temperatures during the collection period (May/June: ~10 °C; January; ~5
°C) and turnover equations presented elsewhere (see Thomas & Crowther, 2015), the isotopic
composition of the selected consumers likely represented a relatively short-term integrator of
their seasonal resource use (estimated
C half-life: ~ 13 – 25 days). The chosen sampling
schedule should therefore have been sufficient to allow for detection of seasonal dietary shifts in
these taxa, if present.
All samples for stable isotope analysis were rinsed with DH
O and any non-target materials
removed using forceps before freeze-drying at -60 ºC for 48 h in glass vials. Dried samples were
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homogenized and quantities for analysis (1 ± 0.2 mg for invertebrate tissue, 3 ± 0.2 mg for
autotrophic material) were packaged within tin capsules for transport to the University of
California, Davis Stable Isotope Facility. Dual δ
C and δ
N analysis was performed using a
PDZ Europa ANCA-GSL elemental analyser interfaced to a PDZ Europa 20–20 isotope ratio
mass spectrometer (Sercon Ltd., Cheshire, U.K.). Values are reported in delta (δ) notation, as
parts per thousand (‰) deviation from international standards (Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite for
carbon and atmospheric air for nitrogen). Epilithic δ
N from DE4 was anomalously enriched (>
13‰ versus a mean of 1.42 ‰ at all other sites), probably reflecting local drainage, and was
excluded from analyses.
Statistical analysis
Statistical analyses were conducted in R Version 2.15.2 (R Development Core Team, 2012).
Initial analysis involved a combination of principal components and Analysis of Variance to
confirm expected land use variations among sites, and to appraise potential confounding
influences from other physico-chemical factors. These were mostly minor, although moorland
sites were at higher altitudes than others by ca. 150m while sites in Deciduous woodlands tended
to have higher conductivity reflecting generally increased ionic richness (Supplementary
material). These possible confounding effects are addressed below.
Regional macroinvertebrate communities
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Variations in community composition among land uses were initially plotted using Non-Metric
Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS; Kruskal, 1964) using the metaMDS function within R’s
vegan package (version 2.0-5), based on 500 iterations (Oksanen et al., 2012). NMDS is a robust
and well-known method that ordinates samples on overall dissimilarity (Kruskal, 1964; Clarke &
Warwick, 2001; Zuur et al., 2007), and was here used in conjunction with the Bray-Curtis index,
due to the ability of this metric to accommodate zero-skewed composition data (Clarke &
Warwick, 2001). All values were fourth root transformed prior to calculation to down-weight the
influence of the most abundant taxa (Clarke & Warwick, 2001). Permutational Multivariate
Analysis of Variance (PERMANOVA; Anderson, 2001) was subsequently used to assess whether
variations in community composition between land use types were significant. This non-
parametric alternative to MANOVA compares groups in multivariate space based on
dissimilarities and generates p values via a permutation procedure. PERMANOVA makes few
major assumptions about the data set, and does not require multivariate normality (Anderson,
2001). In order to rule out potentially confounding effects of differential dispersion,
PERMANOVAs were followed by betadisper tests (Anderson, 2006), a multivariate analogue of
Levene’s test for homogeneity of variances. Following an overall PERMANOVA to assess
whether land use affected community composition, we appraised group-by-group pair-wise
differences using the adonis function within vegan based on 4999 permutations (Oksanen et al.,
2012) following 4
root transformation. Where PERMANOVAs indicated significant differences
among land uses, Similarity Percentage analysis (SIMPER; Clarke, 1993) assessed which taxa
were principally responsible.
At the full suite of sites, we used General Linear Models (GLMs) to assess variations in total
macroinvertebrate abundance, diversity (Shannon) and FFG representation among land use
categories. Where PCAs indicated significant variations among land use categories differed in
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water chemistry or physical variables (see Supplementary Material), effects were controlled by
first modelling dependent variables against abiotic covariates (mean pH, mean conductivity, PC1
scores from anion and cation data, elevation, mean depth, mean width, catchment area, distance
from source), with stepwise deletion then used to remove all non-significant variables. Any
remaining significant terms for each dependent variable were included as covariates in each GLM
carried out to test for differences between land use categories.
Macroinvertebrate and CPOM within streams
At the eight sites sampled repeatedly, General linear mixed effects models (GLMMs; lme
function within the nlme package, Pinheiro et al., 2013) were used to assess differences in
macroinvertebrate biomass between land use types site-pairs and sampling periods, with site
fitted as a random term, in order to account for non-independence of samples taken from the same
location. Separate models were fitted to assess effects on total macroinvertebrate biomass, total
macroinvertebrate density, FFG-by-FFG biomass and proportional representation, and CPOM
standing stocks, with models including Land Use Type, Month and Year as explanatory variables,
along with all relevant two-way (including Month:Year, to investigate sampling-period-specific
differences), and three-way interactions. Where overall terms were significant, factor levels were
compared using Tukey’s Honestly Significant Difference (HSD) post-hoc comparisons.
The relationships between total macroinvertebrate biomass, total macroinvertebrate density, FFG-
by-FFG biomass, FFG-by-FFG proportional representation and the quantity of CPOM within
samples and were assessed using GLMMs. CPOM biomass was fitted as a covariate, along with
land use type, month and year as categorical explanatory variables, with all relevant interactions,
up to four-way, included. Site was again fitted as a random term to account for non-
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independence. Where necessary, variables for all models were log, log + 1, square root or Box-
Cox transformed prior to analysis, to meet linear model assumptions of normally distributed,
homoscedastic residuals and lack of autocorrelation. Because they were proportions, FFG
representation data were arcsine square root transformed (Sokal & Rohlf, 1995).
Stable isotopes
Our stable isotopic analysis depends on the assumption that the isotopic composition of
consumer tissues, particularly ratios of
C and
N, can indicate community-wide
dependence distinct food resources from different origins (Post, 2002; Layman et al., 2012).
When applied to different taxa within a food web, isotopic signatures are then used to infer
energy flow (Layman et al., 2012). In streams and rivers, this includes tracing back the energy
sources supporting macroinvertebrate consumers to their terrestrial (allochthonous) or in-stream
(autochthonous) origins, which are often isotopically distinct (Ishikawa et al., 2012).
Dual stable isotopic assessments of δ
C and δ
N was used here in conjunction with R’s SIAR
(Stable Isotope Analysis in R; version 4.1.3) mixing model (Parnell et al., 2010) with the
SIARsolomcmcv4 function to estimate proportional contribution from terrestrial and in-stream
production to consumer diets individually by site, functional feeding group and season. Mixing
models were fitted for 14 sites where basal resources were isotopically distinct (GB, n = 3; CB, n
= 4; DE, n = 3; MO, n = 4), but 10 sites were excluded where basal resource signatures
overlapped or where consumer measurements fell outside the mixing polygons implied by basal
signatures. All SIAR models were based on 500,000 iterations, with the first 50,000 discarded
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(Parnell et al., 2010). Trophic enrichment factors (TEFs) of 0.5 ± 0.5 ‰ for
C and 3.23 ± 1 ‰
N were assumed for primary consumers (Filterers, Grazers, Shredders) based on calculated
mean difference between primary consumers and basal resources. An additional trophic level of
enrichment was added for Predators (i.e. TEFs of 1 ± 1 ‰ and 6.46 ± 2 ‰ were used for
C and
N, respectively).
Variations in mean proportional contributions of terrestrial organic matter to consumer
production estimated by SIAR (hereafter, ‘terrestrial resource use’) were analysed using a
General Linear Mixed Model (GLMM). Riparian land use, month of sampling and Functional
Feeding Group, along with all possible interactions between these factors, were included as fixed
effects. Site was included as a random term to account for potential non-independence due to
repeated measures at each site through time. As analysis of all proportion data resulted in
normally distributed, homoscedastic residuals, no transformations were applied (Warton & Hui,
Regional macroinvertebrate communities
Macroinvertebrate communities at the 24 regional sites varied among land uses in riffle (F
1.7442, p = 0.004), marginal (F
= 2.1634, p > 0.001) and combined samples (F
= 2.116, p >
0.001), with contrasts greatest between Moorland vs. Deciduous, Coniferous vs. Moorland and
Coniferous vs. Deciduous sites (Table 1; Fig 1). Buffer sites were generally intermediate,
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although communities in their marginal habitats differed from Deciduous sites (Table 1, 2).
SIMPER showed that differences in community composition were mostly due to overall changes
in abundance: no single taxon contributed > 7 % of the difference between any two land use
categories and those responsible represented a relatively small proportion of the total species pool
(Table 2). For example, differences between Deciduous sites and other land uses were principally
caused by increased abundance of the amphipod Gammarus pulex, decreases in the grazing
mayfly Electrogena lateralis and variations among Leuctra stoneflies. Conifererous sites differed
from others mostly because of increased abundances of leuctrid and nemourid stoneflies, notably
Amphinemura sulcicollis. Betadisper tests confirmed that differences between land uses were not
due to unequal dispersion between groups (Riffle: F
3, 19
= 0.140, p = 0.935; Margin: F
3, 18
= 0.326,
p = 0.807; Combined: F
3, 18
= 0.049, p = 0.985).
Functional group representation varied more strongly among land uses (Table 3; Table SM2), and
shredders contributed more to communities at Deciduous sites than any other land use in riffle,
margin and combined samples (Tukey’s HSD for Riffle: Deciduous v Buffer p = 0.008,
Coniferous p = 0.006, Moorland p = 0.005; Margin: Deciduous v Buffer p = 0.030, Coniferous p
= 0.005, Moorland p = 0.013; Combined: Deciduous v Buffer p = 0.011, Coniferous, p = 0.004,
Moorland p = 0.008). Other effects were weaker: Coniferous sites contained a higher proportion
of Grazers (p = 0.025) and Predators (p = 0.022) than at Deciduous sites, and a lower proportion
of Collector-Gatherers (p = 0.024) than at Moorland sites.
Macroinvertebrate and CPOM within streams
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At the 8 sites sampled repeatedly, benthic CPOM in Hess samples varied significantly among
riparian land uses (F
3, 213
= 43.41, p < 0.001) with amounts greater at Deciduous sites than in any
other site type (Tukey’s HSD: p < 0.001 in all cases), and lowest in Moorland (Fig. 2). Standing
stocks at Coniferous and Buffer sites were intermediate, and did not differ significantly from each
other (p = 0.557). These differences were maintained throughout the study, and did not depend
on sampling year (F
3, 213
= 1.04, p > 0.377) or month (F
6, 213
= 1.15, p > 0.337) despite some
seasonal variations (Fig 2).
Consistent with the variations in CPOM, total macroinvertebrate biomass (F
3, 213
= 14.57, p <
0.001) and density (F
= 15.84, p < 0.001) were both greater at Deciduous sites and lower at
Coniferous sites (Tukey’s HSD: p < 0.01 in all cases) than in any other land use (p < 0.05 in all
cases) when averaged across all sampling periods (Table 4; Fig 3). Moorland and Buffer sites had
intermediate biomass, and did not differ significantly from each other (p = 0.971). Again, these
effects occurred irrespective of variations in biomass and density among seasons and years (see
Supplementary Material Appendix SM2).
Biomass values in each FFG also varied among land uses when averaged across sampling periods
(Table 4). Shredder biomass was higher in Deciduous streams than in all other land uses (p < 0.05
in all cases), which did not differ significantly from one another (p > 0.05 in all cases). Collector-
Gatherers and Filterers had their lowest biomass in Coniferous streams (Tukey’s HSD: p < 0.05
in all cases), while Grazer biomass was also significantly lower in Coniferous than Deciduous
streams (p = 0.03). Predator biomass was higher in Moorland than Coniferous sites (p = 0.002),
but otherwise did not differ among land uses (p > 0.05 in all cases). Land use effects on FFG
biomass were consistent among months, years and individual sampling periods for Collector-
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Gatherers (Month: F
6, 213
= 0.90, p = 0.498; Year: F
3, 213
= 1.04, p = 0.377; Sampling Period: F
6, 213
= 1.26, p = 0.277), Predators (Month: F
6, 213
= 0.50, p = 0.810; Year: F
3, 213
= 2.54, p = 0.058;
Sampling Period: F
6, 213
= 2.24, p = 0.051) and Shredders (Month: F
6, 213
= 1.10, p = 0.365; Year:
3, 213
= 1.42, p = 0.238; Sampling Period: F
6, 213
= 1.26, p = 0.276). Variations among land uses
for Filterer (F
6, 213
= 2.18, p = 0.047) and Grazer biomass (F
6, 213
= 4.31, p < 0.001) were more
transient, and both differed among sampling months. The biomass of several functional feeding
groups also varied seasonally when averaged across land use types (see Supplementary material
Appendix SM2). In general, similar patterns were confirmed by proportionate variations among
FFGs, and in particular Deciduous sites had a greater proportion of Shredder taxa than all other
land use types (p < 0.001 in all cases) while Coniferous sites supported a lower proportion of
Collector-Gatherer taxa and greater proportion of Grazers (Tukey’s HSD: p < 0.05 in all cases)
(See Appendix SM3).
Supporting a likely effect of CPOM on macroinvertebrates across land uses, total
macroinvertebrate biomass (F
1, 189
= 94.96, p < 0.001) and density (F
1, 189
= 138.63, p < 0.001)
both increased significantly in samples with greater standing stocks of CPOM (Fig. 4; Table 5).
These relationships were independent of land use type (Biomass: F
3, 189
= 2.49, p = 0.062;
Density: F
3, 189
= 0.53, p = 0.661), month (Biomass: F
2, 189
= 0.41, p = 0.665; Density: F
2, 189
= 2.12,
p = 0.122) or year (Biomass: F
1, 189
= 0.74, p = 0.393; Density: F
1, 189
= 0.02, p = 0.888). Within
individual guilds, Shredder biomass also increased with CPOM biomass across samples (F1, 189
= 7.63, p = 0.006), though the relationship varied seasonally (F
2, 189
= 5.85, p = 0.003). Similarly,
the proportion of total macroinvertebrate biomass composed of Shredders was significantly
positively related to CPOM biomass (F
1, 189
= 17.22, P < 0.001), but the relationship varied
between months (F
1, 189
= 4.52, p = 0.012) and years of sampling (F
1, 189
= 9.93, p = 0.002). The
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biomass or proportional representation of all other functional feeding groups was not significantly
related to CPOM biomass.
Stable isotopes
Contrary to prediction (ii) and unexpectedly given the apparent relationship between land use,
CPOM and macroinvertebrate biomass, terrestrial resource use by macroinvertebrates, as revealed
by isotopic data, did not vary significantly among riparian land use types (F
3, 95
= 0.416, p =
0.742; Fig. 5) even when variations between months (F
3, 93
= 0.923, p = 0.433) or FFGs (F
8, 87
0.620, p = 0.759) were considered. Across all land use categories in both months, roughly 50 %
(range: 33.1 - 75.8 %) of resources assimilated by all macroinvertebrate functional groups were of
terrestrial origin (Fig. 5). When all land use categories were pooled, terrestrial resource use
varied between functional feeding groups in ways that differed between months (F
3, 95
= 3.890, p
= 0.012), but this effect occurred only as significantly increased terrestrial contributions to Grazer
tissues in June (p = 0.002; Fig SM 3).
Despite increasing concern about climate change, practical evidence about the effectiveness of
management adaptations that could reduce adverse effects on ecosystems is still remarkably
scarce. To our knowledge this study, combined with an associated paper (Thomas et al., 2015), is
the first to appraise collateral ecological effects of using riparian trees to create shade - one of the
most widely advocated adaptation measures for rivers (Ormerod 2009; Palmer et al., 2009; Clews
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et al., 2010). Of the three predictions we examined, only one was supported unequivocally:
streams draining deciduous woodland differed clearly from others in having substantially
enhanced standing stocks of CPOM as well as a greater density and biomass of
macroinvertebrates, particularly Shredders. In contrast, there were no variations across land uses
in functional group reliance on terrestrial resources (prediction ii), and nor were the effects of
riparian buffers of 15-60m width sufficient to mimic the effects of more extensive riparian
woodlands (prediction iii). These outcomes provide some support for the hypothesis that climate
change adaptation using broadleaves might alter macroinvertebrate communities functionally and
compositionally, also enhancing stocks of CPOM as an important basal resource. However, on
our evidence this effect is likely only where broadleaf restoration or planting is extensive, and
large step-changes from autochthony to allochthony may not be a major feature. Interestingly,
the data support previous suggestions that narrow riparian buffer zones may be insufficient to
offset some of the influences of wider catchment land use on stream communities and ecosystem
functioning (Allan et al., 1997; Kauffman et al., 1997; Harding et al., 2006; Wahl et al., 2013).
Before discussing more general ramifications of this study, two important caveats must be noted.
First, as with other cross-sectional investigations using space-for-time substitution, our site
categories were created neither by experimental manipulation nor random allocation to
treatments. Our interpretation must, therefore, rely on correlative techniques that are at risk from
possible confounding effects. The land use categories differed marginally on physicochemistry,
with, for example, treeless moorland streams at higher elevations than other land use types
(Supplementary material). However, the range over which these variables differed appeared to be
insufficient to influence community composition: moorland (MO) and buffer strip (GB) sites
differed on physical criteria but supported similar communities. Similarly, buffer strip (GB) sites
and those draining larger areas of deciduous woodland (DE) differed with respect to water
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chemistry, but not in overall macroinvertebrate community composition and the principal results
were consistent across the two scales of the investigation. In other fields, such as freshwater
acidification, early evidence based on space-for-time substitution (Ormerod et al. 1988) has since
been validated using long-term data (Ormerod & Durance 2009) and coupled with studies of
processes (Kowalik et al. 2007) to provide important insights into global change effects. A second
caveat is that the study was intended to appraise the effects of riparian management as an
adaptation to climate change, yet could only be carried out under current climatic conditions.
While there is already evidence of warming effects on streams in the study region (Durance &
Ormerod 2007, 2010; Clews et al., 2010), any extrapolation requires the assumption that patterns
detected here will persist under the higher temperatures, more variable rainfall and potentially
extreme discharge expected in NW Europe. Interestingly, future climates could also affect
streamside woodlands as well as in-stream conditions – for example through altered disease
effects on tree species such as European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) (Pautasso et al., 2013).
Notwithstanding these concerns, we suggest that comparative studies like ours provide a useful
basis for predicting how temperate upland streams might respond to the restoration of catchment
tree cover, thereby increasing understanding of the resultant ecological changes (Naiman et al.,
2012). Decades would be required for the experimental development of riparian tree cover, yet
evidence to inform decision about climate change adaptation are required now.
The clearest overall trends we detected, principally increased CPOM stocks, enhanced shredder
density and increased macroinvertebrate biomass in extensive deciduous woodlands, are
generally well known (Wallace et al., 1997). Interestingly, these effects occurred in both riffles
and margins, but were stronger in the latter, where leaf litter and other terrestrial organic material
often accumulate in ‘softer’ habitats of woody debris, roots and vegetated features (Ormerod et
al., 1993; Flores et al., 2013). Such marginal features that increase riparian shore-length and
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increase litter retention could be as important in increasing CPOM stocks as the adjacent canopy
is in providing inputs (Muotka & Laasonen, 2002). Deciduous woodlands would form the
principal climax vegetation communities over large parts of the temperate zone and, where
riparian zones are intact, the resulting litter input to headwaters is a key component of energy flux
through food webs (Vannote et al., 1980). Where subsidies of CPOM are large enough to offset
climatically mediated export, riparian woodlands might also increase the resilience of
macroinvertebrate populations by increasing basal resources (Moore et al., 1993; Wallace et al.,
1995; Eggert et al., 2012). Understanding future interactions between litter subsidies, uptake into
food webs, secondary production and climate change is likely to be a key area of interest: land
use in the riparian zone is important in that it mediates both climatic effects and riparian subsidies
(Wallace et al., 1995; Broadmeadow et al., 2011).
Despite apparently changing CPOM and invertebrate abundance across the study streams,
however, land use did not affect the relative use of terrestrial and aquatic resource use by
macroinvertebrates in any functional feeding group. Thus, while shredders apparently intercepted
the terrestrial subsidy at deciduous sites and converted it into increased invertebrate biomass, they
still depended in part on autotrophic production. This contrasts with the resource-use patterns
typically assigned to this group (Cummins & Klug, 1979). Such effects would arise where
shredding taxa ingested and assimilating algal production attached to leaf litter (Hax & Golladay,
1993). In the same way, grazing taxa can supplement their diets with fine terrestrial organic
matter captured within epilithic biofilms (Hamilton et al., 2005). Thus, even at open moorland
sites where greater autotrophic production would be expected, roughly 50% of animal production
in all FFGs originated from terrestrial sources. These results are contrary to the expectation that
relative allocthony versus autochthony should differ among deciduous woodland, grassland and
conifer sites (Abehlo, 2001; Kiffney et al., 2003, 2004).
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Such unexpected effects might be explained either by intrinsic biological processes or by
extrinsic, contextual factors alone or combination. For example, autotrophic food webs persist
even in streams in woodland environments prior to seasonal canopy closure or where primary
production is maintained in habitats such as mosses (Wallace et al., 1997). Equally,
allochthonous resources still occur in moorland catchments, and Menninger & Palmer (2007)
illustrated how herbs and grasses provided significant inputs of litter to open-canopy piedmont
streams. Leberfinger et al. (2011) used stable isotope analysis to show that such terrestrial
organic resources were important to shredding macroinvertebrates in grassland streams despite
the availability of autotrophic production. Resource-use patterns might also be mediated directly
and locally by invertebrate consumers: despite varying amounts of terrestrial organic matter in
different land uses, use and uptake can be constrained by the capacity for feeding plasticity in
consumer taxa (e.g. morphological adaptations for rock scraping vs. leaf shredding vs. filter
feeding) (Cummins & Klug, 1979; Dangles, 2002). Variations in resource quality between
terrestrial and in-stream production might also constrain feeding choices, with CPOM typically
less rich in macronutrients than benthic epilithon: macroinvertebrates often require elemental
stochiometry with their food sources, and CPOM alone may be insufficient to support growth and
metabolism (Hladyz et al., 2009). More extrinsically, wider catchment effects or downstream
export might mask local riparian effects from land use: there is evidence to indicate that even
small reductions in catchment tree cover (~10% deforestation in otherwise totally afforested
catchments) weakens terrestrial-aquatic linkages (England & Rosemond, 2004). Resource use
patterns may therefore reflect whole catchment land use rather than those just in the riparian zone,
even where wider riparian land uses are extensive: in woodland catchments, large areas of lateral
tree cover may be needed to offset downstream subsidy export, particularly transport during high
flow events (Wallace et al. 1995; Eggert et al., 2012). Finally, measurement or modelling
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artefacts with stable isotopes cannot be excluded. For instance, in some riverine systems it may
be difficult to fully discern in-stream production using isotopic signals alone, as there can be
substantial overlap in
C concentrations between autochthnous and allochthonous material
(France, 1996). However, care was taken to exclude data from sites where assumptions of
isotopic mixing models were violated, and repeated sampling at each site improved robustness by
minimizing the effects of temporal variability. Additionally, potential error in the estimation
resource isotopic composition was of explicitly incorporated into the Bayesian models used here
(Parnell et al., 2010).
Implications for climate change adaptation
A central theme of our study is an appraisal of how the protection, management and restoration of
riparian broadleaves for climate-change adaptation might have effects on temperate headwaters
beyond cooling alone. Already, there is extensive investment in Britain and elsewhere to instigate
riparian tree planting based on evidence that the resulting shade dampens thermal variation in
adjacent streams (Broadmeadow & Nisbet, 2004; Broadmeadow et al., 2011; Environment
Agency, 2011). Here, we set out to assess whether there might also be collateral effects on
important basal resources or aspects of stream function mediated by macroinvertebrates. Our
previous paper using data from some of the same locations showed that deciduous riparian zones
were neutral for salmonids, but conifers reduced density and biomass (Thomas et al., 2015). The
latter result is consistent with data collected here in that overall macroinvertebrate biomass and
density were also lowest in coniferous catchments.
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Small-scale, riparian interventions in catchments used otherwise for agriculture or urbanization
are postulated often as a potentially valuable and cost-effective means of reducing warming
directly, reducing stressors that could be exacerbated by warming (e.g. nutrients, sediments) and
enhancing resilience by providing habitat and energetic subsidies (Moore et al., 1993; Wallace et
al., 1997; Sweeney et al., 2004). Our data extend understanding this technique by illustrating how
riparian broadleaves used in climate change adaptation would be likely to enhance CPOM stocks,
Shredder densities and overall macroinvertebrate biomass, but only where woodland is extensive.
In this respect the management implications are clear. First, where narrow woodland buffers are
used solely to moderate thermal regimes, large energetic benefits or effects on CPOM dynamics
would, on our evidence, be unlikely. In contrast, more extensive woodland restoration would
have additional further benefits beyond cooling through enhanced litter subsidies and retention in
marginal habitats. Both of these effects could be enhanced by encouraging planting or natural
regeneration of native riparian vegetation, for example through agri-environment schemes or as
part of wider global reforestation efforts (Crowther et al., 2015), and by protecting retentive
features such as marginal vegetation or woody debris during river management (Muotka &
Laasonen, 2002; Sweeney et al., 2004; Flores et al. 2013). Such techniques could either be
implemented alone, or in combination with other adaptation strategies which could act to enhance
local shade and cooling (e.g. Everall et al., 2012). The ecological benefits locally within
headwaters might include improved conservation of woodland stream organisms, restored linkage
between headwaters and riparian zones, restoration of natural stream function and potentially
increased resilience through enhanced basal resources (Moore et al., 1993; Goodwin et al., 1997;
Muotka & Laasonen, 2002). More extensive benefits from litter processing and export to
ecosystems downstream are possible, but require fuller appraisal in more extensively wooded
landscapes (Wipfli, 2005; Tanentzap et al., 2014).
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More generally, our study illustrates a possible approach to appraising the potential effectiveness
of climate change adaptation – through studies of ecological processes combined with a survey of
locations assumed to mimic future land cover options. With current practical knowledge of
climate change adaptation in most ecosystems still rudimentary, we suggest that this subject
needs greater research attention given the urgency for action and the time required to develop,
implement and fully realize change at the landscape scales necessary.
We thank the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship scheme for funding SMT, and the NERC
‘Duress’ and EU MARS projects for funding SJO. We also thank the South East Wales Rivers
Trust and Natural Resources Wales for help in kind, and Caitlin Pearson, Matthew Dray and
Stuart Rudd for assistance in the field. Three anonymous referees provided insightful comments
on the manuscript.
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Figure Legends
Figure 1: NMDS ordinations of macroinvertebrate communities (after 4th root transformation)
collected from South Wales streams in a.) riffles; b.) marginal habitats; c.) combined samples:
points indicate Buffer (solid lines; ), Coniferous (dashed lines; ), Deciduous (dotted lines; )
and Moorland (dot-dash lines; ) sites.
Figure 2: CPOM biomass (mg m
: mean ± 1S.E.) dynamics across land use types and sampling
periods. a.) site-specific values averaged across all sampling periods, b.) yearly values averaged
across all sites, c.) monthly values averaged across sites in 2011 and d.) monthly values averaged
across sites in 2012.Land use categories: CB = Coniferous, DE = Deciduous, GB = Buffer, MO
= Moorland. Y-axis scales differ between graphs.
Figure 3: Macroinvertebrate biomass (mg m
: mean ± 1 SE) over two years (2011 and 2012) at
eight streams in South Wales draining different land use: CB = Coniferous, DE = Deciduous, GB
= Buffer, MO = Moorland. Shared letters denote land use type site-pairs that did not differ
significantly within each sampling period (Tukey’s post-hoc comparisons following GLMM: p >
Figure 4: Relationships between log transformed CPOM biomass and a.) total macroinvertebrate
biomass, b.) total macroinvertebrate density. Solid lines indicate best fit as predicted by Linear
Mixed Effects models, dashed lines represent predicted standard errors around the mean.
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Figure 5: Estimated proportional terrestrial resource use in each of four macroinvertebrate
functional groups collected for stable isotope analysis in streams in South Wales, across land use
types on two sampling occasions: a.) filtering taxa, b.) grazing taxa, c.) predatory taxa and d.)
shredding taxa. Values presented are mean proportional terrestrial resource use ± 1 SE derived
from SIAR.
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... A flooding river can leave behind substantial amounts of sediments and nutrients in the floodplain (Walling, 1999) representing a large nutrient subsidy to terrestrial systems. The food web stretches between the freshwater and land transition zone (Petersen et al., 2004;Thomas et al., 2016) and enables the flow of nutrients and carbon in both directions as animals live, feed and die in both environments. As well as carbon and nutrient recycling, river woodlands play a role in regulating the flow of water. ...
... In woodland streams, shredders play an important role in the conversion of leaf litter from Coarse Particulate Organic Matter (CPOM) into finer particles (FPOM) (Webster & Benfield, 1986;Cuffney et al., 1990;Thompson & Parkinson, 2011) and biomass which, in turn, provides food for collectors which are unable to process the coarser fractions. Thomas et al., (2016) found, in Wales, that streams draining deciduous woodland differed clearly from others in having substantially enhanced standing stocks of CPOM, as well as a greater density and biomass of macroinvertebrates, particularly shredders. Streamscale investigations showed that macroinvertebrate biomass in deciduous woodland streams was around twice that in moorland streams, and lowest of all in streams draining non-native conifers (Thomas et al., 2016). ...
... Thomas et al., (2016) found, in Wales, that streams draining deciduous woodland differed clearly from others in having substantially enhanced standing stocks of CPOM, as well as a greater density and biomass of macroinvertebrates, particularly shredders. Streamscale investigations showed that macroinvertebrate biomass in deciduous woodland streams was around twice that in moorland streams, and lowest of all in streams draining non-native conifers (Thomas et al., 2016). The algae and invertebrates support and provide food for fish. ...
Technical Report
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River woods are essential for healthy rivers and provide multiple benefits which help tackle the twin biodiversity and climate crisis. Restoring Scotland’s river woods is a priority and a key candidate for funding under conservation finance initiatives as a nature based solution. Collating the available scientific evidence on the benefits of river woodlands provides an evidence base to justify financial investment in river woodlands for society, the economy, and nature itself.
... Some functions exerted by the riparian forests on rivers basins includes the superficial runoff energy dissipation and the superficial soil and water filtering, reducing the risk of the silting up process and the risk of eutrophication. They can also act on the thermal water balance, due to the shadow produced by the riparian vegetation (Carpanezzi, 2000;Barbosa, 2004;Barbosa, 2006;Almlöf, 2016, Thomas, Griffiths andOrmerod, 2016;Knouft et al., 2021). ...
... From the conservation point of view, the riparian forests are important to the balance of the aquatic ecosystems productive chain and to nutrient cycling, acting as much in the organic matter decomposition as in the supply of food resources to the aquatic organisms (Thomas, Griffiths andOrmerod, 2016, Warren et al., 2016;Carpanezzi, 2000;Donadio, Galbiatti and Paula, 2005;Ferreira and Dias, 2004). Furthermore, the riparian forest is important to terrestrial flora and fauna traffic, acting as ecological corridors (Campos and Landgraf 2001;Brito et al., 2017;Paolino et al., 2018; Gutiérrez-Chacón, Valderrama-a and Klein, 2020). ...
The riparian vegetation along water courses and the health of the river’s basin, regarding the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems associated with them, are widely discussed in literature. However, the maintenance of the services and the conservation role that riparian forests provide to flora and fauna may be affected by the regional matrix that surrounds the water course and by the length and composition of the riparian vegetation associated with them. This study aimed to evaluate the relationships among the grass cover and arboreal species diversity in three watercourses surrounded by a pasture dominated with the alien grass Uroclhoa decumbens (Stapf) R.D. Webster (former Brachiaria decumbens). Two hypotheses were tested: (i) watercourses with larger riparian forest width present higher richness and abundance of native and zoochoric tree species and those associated to late succession stages, and (ii) watercourses with larger riparian forest width present a lower grass cover on their interior. The study was conducted under domain of Semideciduous Seasonal Forest, belonging to the Atlantic Forest biome, municipality of Londrina, Paraná State, south Brazil. The regional climate is Köppen’s Cfa humid subtropical. The soil is classified as a mosaic of eutroferric red nitosols and lithosols. The studied sites mostly comprise pasture with U. decumbens alien grass and small patches of woody vegetation amidst an open pasture dominated by species attributed to the first’s stages of secondary succession. The studied site is immersed in Cambé’s River watershed and contain three watercourses, Cristal River, tributary to São Lourenço River, that, in turn, is tributary to Cambé River. All watercourses are classified as small rivers (Brazilian Forestry Code, federal law: n. 12.651/2012), with length inferior to 10 m between both riversides. The riparian vegetation shares similar characteristics and structure, encompassing woody vegetation with pioneer trees species and high canopy openness. All riparian forests are immersed in pastures with U. decumbens grass. Transects of 200 meters long, measuring one meter wide from the line on both sides of the transect, and one square plot (25 m2) were allocated on the interior of each riparian forest. Transects were evaluated as arboreal species richness and the length of the riparian forest strip. In each plot, the arboreal vegetation was inventoried as species richness, abundance and density, and the U. decumbens cover was measured. The riparian forest width was arranged in two classes, forests with width ≤ 5 m or ≥ 10 m. The studied forests were compared as richness, abundance, density, and grass cover. The correlations among the riparian vegetation with the forest width and grass coverage (%) were evaluated. Species richness, abundance and density did not differ among the watercourses. However, species abundance and density presented positive correlations with the riparian forest width, indicating that the larger is the riparian vegetation, the higher is the species density. Grass cover presents a strong negative correlation with the riparian forest width, indicating that narrow strips of woody vegetation present higher grass cover. A high positive correlation was observed with riparian strip width and native trees, suggesting that native woody species establishment is limited by the riparian strip width and that those rustic trees species are more capable to colonize these environments. Also, the correlation found with species that present abiotic syndromes and pioneer species indicates that trees that can colonize open areas are more suitable to establish on narrow strips of vegetation amidst a pasture. The relationships observed with zoochoric trees suggests that the fauna that visits these forests are tolerant to open areas and visit these areas independently of their vegetation width. The larger riparian forests present lower grass cover and these can be related to shadow micro-sites that reduce the luminosity which can affect the permanence potential of the dominance of U. decumbens. In this way, the data suggests that few plants can establish in these pasture landscape, and those more rustic trees which are able to establish under open areas, high grass cover and canopy openness, and that re-sprout after a fire, became more dominant. For these watercourses, with narrow riparian vegetation strips surrounded by an U. decumbens pasture, the high grass cover can restrict and plant diversity, acting on the course and velocity of secondary succession in these areas.
... Also, facing the future with one of the greatest concerns, climate change might affect particularly riverine ecosystems and their protection (Durance and Ormerod, 2007;Ormerod, 2009) with changes at local scale (i.e., factors influencing microhabitats and flow) to macro scale (extreme events such as floods, drought, heatwaves affecting river regime, see Rameshwaran et al., 2021). In this regard, riparian habitats can play a crucial role in mitigating the threats to aquatic ecosystems, contributing to (i) improving water quality and avoiding a great change in water temperatures (Thomas et al., 2016), and thus (ii) reducing the impacts of climate change (Cole et al., 2020). Future studies should also consider contemporary real-life issues, such as climate change impacting with extreme hydrological events (Sharafati and Pezeshki, 2020;Gaur et al., 2021). ...
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Since plastics are a global growing concern that persists in nature, they threaten ecosystem conservation and human health. Particularly, pollination is one of the most important ecological services being pivotal to the ecosystem's long-term functioning and human welfare. However, pollination is threatened by pesticides, urbanisation, habitat loss, and contaminants. As interactions between plastics and biota or ecosystem service remain neglected, the major challenge would be to research it. Our achievement was a first attempt to assess the effects of macroplastics on riparian vegetation and the ecosystem service of pollination. Here, (i) while investigating macroplastics entrapped by riparian vegetation, (ii) we propose the new field observation of the flower's coverage by macroplastics. Then, (iii) we indirectly assessed the possible interaction between macroplastic litter and the ecosystem service of pollination. Finally, (iv) we performed a meta-analysis search to understand better how many studies were carried out on this topic. To achieve our aim, surveys of riverine macroplastic litter entrapped in riparian vegetation were carried out in the urban tract of the Aniene River. To assess if pollination was possibly reduced by macroplastics covering flowers, we observed the visitation of pollinators on flowers. Overall, we observed that flowers of riparian vegetation were covered by macroplastics, preventing them from being pollinated by insects, and pollination success (i.e., successful pollination) was potentially reduced to 81.4% by a factor of 18.6%. Our research highlights that macroplastics on vegetation indicate a new stress to plant reproduction, reducing blooming (i.e., flowering or flower production) and pollination. These recent observations urge new studies to evaluate how macroplastic litter accumulates and might affect ecosystem services in long-term research. Our findings could be of particular concern as pollination in agricultural crops and riverine habitats is central to human welfare as an ecosystem service. Considering that most global food crops depend on pollination by insects, crops and fruits (e.g., coffee, cocoa, apples) would not be present without the essential ecosystem service of pollination. Our findings highlight for the first time a new threat (i.e., macroplastic litter) to the blooming with possible implications for the pollination process.
... A common theme in the analysis of these challenges and their possible solutions is that more attention should be given to the interactions among multiple stressors when assessing habitat quality and developing effective remediation activities (Arrigo et al., 2020;Liao et al., 2018;Vörösmarty et al., 2010). However, in the context of multiple stressors, accurately assessing habitat quality and improving the resistance of river ecosystems to further deterioration are challenging tasks (Thomas et al., 2016). ...
The success of river habitat restoration relies on accurate assessment proxies. However, determining how to quantitatively assess the impact of multiple stressors during flood discharge from high dams in riverine ecosystems and where and how to implement more reliable recovery interventions remain challenges. Here, we developed a bottom-up mechanistic framework for assessing the effects of total dissolved gas supersaturation (TDGS) and hydrodynamics on fish habitat quality and applied it to the downstream river reach of the Xiangjiaba Dam in Southwest China. The results showed that the available habitat area of river sturgeon was the smallest, while Chinese sucker had the largest available habitat area among the three target species under all discharge scenarios. Although the TDGS levels were evenly mixed laterally, the habitat suitability index indicated that the suitable habitats were primarily within both sides of the river reach under all scenarios, which is contrary to findings based on the traditional TDGS risk assessment model. The traditional TDGS risk assessment model overestimates the impact of dams on habitats. This divergence reflected the sensitivity of the habitat assessment to fish habitat preferences, fish tolerance to TDGS and the biological response of fish under TDGS. Additionally, the priority areas for restoration can be identified by habitat suitability index with lower values. We simulated twenty-four schemes and found that interventions such as stone groups, ecological spur dike, water-retaining weir and river dredging can enhance habitat suitability for fish species under multiple stressors, providing novel insights into where and how to mitigate the impact of TDGS. Our findings offer a transferable framework for the quantitative evaluation of fish habitat and implementation of restoration management during dam flood discharge periods, thus providing a new perspective for biodiversity conservation and habitat restoration in dam-regulated rivers with TDGS around the world.
... In transforming aquatic systems, fisheries management will need to consider both ecological and social strategies; neither can operate successfully in isolation. (Jacobson et al., 2013), planting riparian vegetation to reduce stream warming (Thomas et al., 2016), and managing water flow to emulate historical flow regimes (Thompson et al., 2012a). Examples of resistance actions at local scales include depositing sediment to elevate and maintain tidal wetlands as sea levels rise (Ford et al., 1999), removing algae on corals to reduce competition and promote coral recruitment (Ceccarelli et al., 2018), deploying artificial reef structures and stocking corals in marine environments (Nieves-Ortiz et al., 2021), and reducing the impact of flooding and intense storm events on fish nursery habitats by reconnecting floodplains through addition of woody debris and beaver-dam analogues in riverine environments (Thompson, et al., 2012b). ...
Fisheries management is a complex task made even more challenging by rapid and unprecedented socioecological transformations associated with climate change. The Resist‐Accept‐Direct (RAD) framework can be a useful tool to support fisheries management in facing the high uncertainty and variability associated with aquatic ecosystem transformations. Here, RAD strategies are presented to address ecological goals for aquatic ecosystems and social goals for fisheries. These strategies are mapped on a controllability matrix which explores the ability to guide a system's behaviour towards a desired state based on ecological responsiveness and societal receptivity to change. Understanding and improving the controllability of aquatic systems and fisheries can help managers to maintain the broadest suite of available RAD management strategies. El manejo de recursos pesqueros es una tarea compleja que se complica aun más con las transformaciones socioecológicas asociadas al cambio climático. El marco de Resistir‐Aceptar‐Dirigir (RAD) puede ser una herramienta útil para la toma de decisiones en el manejo pesquero en cara a la alta incertidumbre y variabilidad asociada a las transformaciones de los ecosistemas acuáticos. Aquí se presentan las estrategias de RAD en cuanto a los objetivos ecológicos para los sistemas acuáticos y objetivos sociológicos para las pesquerías. Dichas estrategias están presentadas en una matriz de control, la cual explora la habilidad de guiar el comportamiento de un sistema hacia el estado deseado basado en la capacidad ecológica a responder al manejo y la receptividad social a cambios. Entender y mejorar el nivel de control de sistemas acuáticos y pesquerías puede ayudar a los manejadores a mantener una amplia selección de estrategias de manejo RAD.
... Such planting will need a strategic approach and take time to have an effect, so will need to be put in place at the earliest opportunity to ensure success (Wilby and Johnson, 2020). However, when targeting such actions, it is also important to consider the impact on aquatic invertebrate species composition due to increased coarse organic matter such as dead leaves and other woody debris in the watercourse (Thomas et al., 2016). Species associated with headwaters and springs dominated those considered vulnerable within this study. ...
Full-text available
Freshwater ecosystems are particularly at risk from climate change due to the intrinsic link between the physical properties of the water environment and those species that live there. Mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies are key indicators of the health of freshwater environments and their biological traits and ecological preferences determine their vulnerability to climate change. Traits and preferences for 289 British species were analysed, with voltinism, length of flight period, altitudinal preference and affinity to headwaters being the main factors causing vulnerability. Sixteen species were deemed to be at risk from climate change. These species are distributed across Great Britain, but particular hotspots of vulnerability are present in upland areas. These areas should be targeted with mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of climate change on populations of aquatic insects.
Full-text available
Important clues about the ecological effects of climate change can arise from understanding the influence of other Earth-system processes on ecosystem dynamics but few studies span the inter-decadal timescales required. We, therefore, examined how variation in annual weather patterns associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) over four decades was linked to synchrony and stability in a metacommunity of stream invertebrates across multiple, contrasting headwaters in central Wales (UK). Prolonged warmer and wetter conditions during positive NAO winters appeared to synchronize variations in population and community composition among and within streams thereby reducing stability across levels of ecological organization. This climatically mediated synchronization occurred in all streams irrespective of acid–base status and land use, but was weaker where invertebrate communities were more functionally diverse. Wavelet linear models indicated that variation in the NAO explained up to 50% of overall synchrony in species abundances at a timescale of 4–6 years. The NAO appeared to affect ecological dynamics through local variations in temperature, precipitation and discharge, but increasing hydrochemical variability within sites during wetter winters might have contributed. Our findings illustrate how large-scale climatic fluctuations generated over the North Atlantic can affect population persistence and dynamics in inland freshwater ecosystems in ways that transcend local catchment character. Protecting and restoring functional diversity in stream communities might increase their stability against warmer, wetter conditions that are analogues of ongoing climate change. Catchment management could also dampen impacts and provide options for climate change adaptation.
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Climate change could alter fluxes of organic matter and macronutrients through freshwater ecosystems potentially affecting stream organisms. However, riparian controls on litter dynamics offer an opportunity to adapt headwaters to climate change by protecting or restoring riparian vegetation. We assessed how riparian land cover and climatic variability affected the supply, retention and downstream transport of particulate organic matter (POM) in headwaters – the most extensive small water bodies in temperate landscapes. Leaf litter inputs, benthic stocks and suspended organic matter were measured nominally monthly in 2nd-3rd order streams draining broadleaf woodland, conifer, acid moorland and circumneutral moorland over four years with varying discharge. Streams draining broadleaf woodland received more leaf litter from the riparian zone than conifer and moorland, and transported higher concentrations of CPOM and FPOM at base flows. Broadleaf sites had higher CPOM stocks, even after hydrological events that reduced CPOM in conifer and moorland sites. In contrast, FPOM dynamics reflected hydrological conditions irrespective of land cover. These results show how some organic matter fractions in streams are sensitive to hydrological conditions, illustrating how wetter climates will influence FPOM exports. Nevertheless, riparian broadleaves have the potential to offset climatic effects on organic matter processing in headwaters through the replenishment and retention of CPOM.
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Stream–riparian meta-ecosystems are strongly connected through exchanges of energy, material and organisms. Land use can disrupt ecological connectivity by affecting community composition directly and/or indirectly by altering the instream and riparian habitats that support biological structure and function. Although forested riparian buffers are increasingly used as a management intervention, our understanding of their effects on the functioning of stream–riparian metaecosystems is limited. This study assessed patterns in the longitudinal and lateral profiles of streams in modified landscapes across Europe and Sweden using a pairedreach approach, with upstream unbuffered reaches lacking woody riparian vegetation and with downstream reaches having well-developed forested buffers. The presence of buffers was positively associated with stream ecological status as well as important attributes, which included instream shading and the provision of suitable habitats for instream and riparian communities, thus supporting more aquatic insects (especially EPT taxa). Emergence of aquatic insects is particularly important because they mediate reciprocal flows of subsidies into terrestrial systems. Results of fatty acid analysis and prey DNA from spiders further supported the importance of buffers in providing more aquatic-derived quality food (i.e. essential fatty acids) for riparian spiders. Findings presented in this thesis show that buffers contribute to the strengthening of cross-ecosystem connectivity and have the potential to affect a wide range of consumers in modified landscapes.
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Riparian forests are recognized as green/blue infrastructure that provides various ecosystem services, including water transport, shade from sunlight energy, supply of leaf litter, input of terrestrial insect, delivery of large wood, maintenance of water quality, and corridors for wildlife. However, these forests have already experienced negative impacts from various anthropogenic stressors, such as forest cutting, agricultural development, river regulation, and dam construction. Moreover, the climate projections for the twenty-first century in Japan indicate that mean precipitation may increase by more than 10%, and other projections predict an increase in the frequency of high-magnitude floods and a reduction in the discharge of snowmelt floods. In this chapter, we describe probable changes in the structure and function of riparian forests that might result and describe adaption strategies to reduce the potential impacts of climate change on stream and riparian ecosystems exacerbated by anthropogenic stressors.
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Density and biomass of redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) relative to stream temperature were examined in headwater reaches of Big Jacks and Little Jacks Creeks in southwestern Idaho. Stream shading was greater (mean of 80% versus 46%) and solar insolation was lower (mean of 7.9 versus 15.1 mJ · m-2 · day-1) in Little Jacks Creek (P < 0.04); otherwise the 2 streams were similar (e.g., width, depth, gradient, median substrate size). Maximum water temperatures increased with distance from headwater springs in both streams (P ≤ 0.07) but increased more rapidly and to higher levels (24°-26°C) in Big Jacks Creek. Daily maximum water temperatures (23 km downstream of headwater springs) during July 1996 were lower in Little Jacks Creek (ranged from 18° to 22°C) than in Big Jacks Creek (20.2° to 26°C, P < 0.001). Daily temperature fluctuations also differed between streams, averaging 3.6°C for Little Jacks Creek and 7.8°C for Big Jacks Creek (P < 0.001). Redband trout density and biomass were greater in Little Jacks Creek (means of 0.8 fish · m-2 and 25.0 g · m-2) compared to Big Jacks Creek (0.3 fish · m-2 and 8.9 g · m-2, P = 0.01). Trout density was negatively correlated with increases in water temperature (P = 0.03) and solar insolation (P = 0.09) in both streams. Trout biomass increased with stream shading and was negatively correlated with solar insolation (P < 0.1). Warmer water temperatures in Big Jacks Creek were likely due to historical summerlong livestock grazing, which drastically reduced riparian shading.
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The vegan package (available from: provides tools for descriptive community ecology. It has most basic functions of diversity analysis, community ordination and dissimilarity analysis. Most of its multivariate tools can be used for other data types as well. The functions in the vegan package contain tools for diversity analysis, ordination methods and tools for the analysis of dissimilarities. Together with the labdsv package, the vegan package provides most standard tools of descriptive community analysis. Package ade4 provides an alternative comprehensive package, and several other packages complement vegan and provide tools for deeper analysis in specific fields. Package provides a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for a large subset of vegan functionality. The vegan package is developed at GitHub ( GitHub provides up-to-date information and forums for bug reports. Most important changes in vegan documents can be read with news(package="vegan") and vignettes can be browsed with browseVignettes("vegan"). The vignettes include a vegan FAQ, discussion on design decisions, short introduction to ordination and discussion on diversity methods. A tutorial of the package at provides a more thorough introduction to the package. To see the preferable citation of the package, type citation("vegan").
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The global extent and distribution of forest trees is central to our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere. We provide the first spatially continuous map of forest tree density at a global scale. This map reveals that the global number of trees is approximately 3.04 trillion, an order of magnitude higher than the previous estimate. Of these trees, approximately 1.39 trillion exist in tropical and subtropical forests, with 0.74 trillion in boreal regions and 0.61 trillion in temperate regions. Biome-level trends in tree density demonstrate the importance of climate and topography in controlling local tree densities at finer scales, as well as the overwhelming effect of humans across most of the world. Based on our projected tree densities, we estimate that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.
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Suitable thermal conditions in streams are necessary for fish and predictions of future climate changes infer that water temperatures may regularly exceed tolerable ranges for key species. Riparian woodland is considered as a possible management tool for moderating future thermal conditions in streams for the benefit of fish communities. The spatial and temporal variation of stream water temperature was therefore investigated over 3 years in lowland rivers in the New Forest (southern England) to establish the suitability of the thermal regime for fish in relation to riparian shade in a warm water system. Riparian shade was found to have a marked influence on stream water temperature, particularly in terms of moderating diel temperature variation and limiting the number of days per year that maximum temperatures exceeded published thermal thresholds for brown trout. Expansion of riparian woodland offers potential to prevent water temperature exceeding incipient lethal limits for brown trout and other fish species. A relatively low level of shade (20–40%) was found to be effective in keeping summer temperatures below the incipient lethal limit for brown trout, but ca. 80% shade generally prevented water temperatures exceeding the range reported for optimum growth of brown trout. Higher levels of shade are likely to be necessary to protect temperature-sensitive species from climate warming. © Crown copyright 2010.
This revised and updated edition of the bestselling Methods in Stream Ecology reflects the latest advances in the technology associated with ecological assessment of streams. In this second edition, all chapters have been updated and modified to reflect the most contemporary protocols covering 6 vital areas of stream ecology: Physical Stream Ecology; Material Transport, Uptake, and Stora Stream B Community Interactions; Ecosystem Processes; and Ecosystem Quality. Each chapter contains basic methods suitable for teaching undergraduate or graduate students and advanced methods for conducting state-of-the-art research. Suitable as a textbook for a course in stream or river ecology, this book is also a critical reference for professional aquatic ecologists, natural resource managers, and for those entering the field of stream ecology who wish to evaluate the condition of streams or their watersheds.