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Title: An evaluation of the spatial configuration and temporal dynamics of hydraulic patches in three UK lowland rivers
Author: Wallis, Caroline
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 4392
Awarding Body: University of Worcester
Current Institution: University of Worcester
Date of Award: 2014
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Accurate characterisation of the hydraulic environment is a key step in describing hydromorphology at an ecologically relevant scale which has relevance to several aspects of river management, including monitoring river health, designing environmental flows and evaluating river rehabilitation measures. However, current hydraulic habitat quantification methods oversimplify the spatial heterogeneity of the hydraulic environment and do not explain or interpret the spatial arrangement of different habitat units sufficiently or define the dynamics of these shifting patterns. This research applied a novel numerical classification method and a landscape ecology framework to quantify the composition and configuration hydraulic patches in three UK lowland river reaches at five different flows. Five spatially coherent hydraulic patches, defined by the joint distribution of depth-velocity, were optimally delineated from hydraulic point data at each reach using the Gustafson-Kessel fuzzy clustering algorithm. Transitional zones between hydraulic patches occupied between 18- 30% and represent an application of the ecotone concept to the instream environment. Hydraulic patch diversity increased with discharge, peaking at high flow (Q38-Q22), suggesting that the provision of high flows is important for maximising hydraulic heterogeneity. The dominance of shallow, slow patches at low flow was gradually replaced by faster, deeper hydraulic patches at high flow illustrating the effect of discharge on the availability of different hydraulic patch types. The spatial arrangement of patches, quantified using a range of spatial metrics from the field of landscape ecology at two spatial scales (class and reachscape), was relatively invariant to changes in discharge suggesting that the configuration of the hydraulic patch mosaic is determined by channel morphology and remains stable between channel forming discharges. The majority of hydraulic patch types occurred in relatively fixed locations in the channel, moving relatively small distances as discharge increased, associated with the gradual expansion or contraction of patch area. The results suggest that sub-bankfull flow variations will primarily affect the composition rather than the configuration of hydraulic patches, however large fluctuations are likely to result in high rates of patch turnover (change in location), with potential implications for instream biota. The hydraulic patch/transition zone model of the hydraulic environment provides a new approach for exploring the link between physical and biological heterogeneity in the instream environment, including the role of instream ecotones. Whilst the application of numerical classification is currently limited by the large hydraulic data requirement, future advances in remote-sensing technology and hydrodynamic modelling are likely to widen its iii applicability at a range of spatial scales. The results highlight the need for further research on the ecological significance of hydraulic patches and transition zones and ecological sensitivity to changes in hydraulic patch configuration. Wider application of the landscape ecology approach to hydraulic habitat assessment in different reach types is recommended to improve understanding of the links between geomorphic and hydraulic diversity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GB Physical geography