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Title: From engineered channel to functioning stream ecosystem : rates, patterns and mechanisms of development in a realigned river channel
Author: Perfect, Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 2693 0927
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2010
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1. Realigning rivers is becoming common as a solution to conflicting needs of land development and ecosystem preservation. Although an increasing number of projects are monitored, exactly how these channels develop as functional stream ecosystems is still poorly understood. Mining in the upper catchment of the River Nith (Scotland) required the realignment of 3km (approx.) of river. The engineered channel was designed around sound geomorphological principles of sediment transport and supply with a sinuous planform and pool-riffle sequences along the installed gravel-bed. 2. A comprehensive survey covering biotic and abiotic development was devised and implemented to test models and hypotheses relating to the development riverine habitats over the first three years. 2. Physical habitat development at the reach scale was investigated using fixed-point photography and differential GPS surveys of the thalweg and of cross-sectional form every 100m. This revealed the development of a relatively diverse streambed habitat in response to both the channel slope and planform. However, other than at meander bends where asymmetry developed over several years, little change was observed to the form of the engineered riverbanks. 3. Kick-net surveys of benthic invertebrate communities at 10 sites showed a negative relationship between specific measures of diversity and downstream distance during the early stages of development. (e.g. Richness with chainage at the 6 month stage) but the relationship degrades rapidly and is likely in part to appear as a result of low population densities. 4. Survey of transects through the riparian zone perpendicular to the river indicated that colonisation by vegetation is also related to distance along the realignment but physical habitat and geographical factors play a more dominant role over development (Canonical correspondence analysis of vegetation data in 2007) 5. Many of the indices of diversity for both biotic and abiotic elements of the ecosystem proved ineffective at detecting development at the reach scale. This may be because significant changes occur at a smaller scale than was detected by the surveys. It is likely that greater resolution is required to detect more ecologically meaningful relationships and patterns. 6. Overall study shows constructed realignments can rapidly develop a diverse streambed community within 24 months. Riparian communities are slower to develop because of the slow development of riverbank habitat diversity. Other ecosystem properties such as resilience and connectivity may take much longer.
Supervisor: Gilvear, David Sponsor: Scottish Coal
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: River restoration ; freshwater invertebrates ; Colonisation ; Realignment ; Channel ; Ecosystem recovery ; River channels ; Stream restoration ; River engineering