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Evaluating riparian solutions to multiple stressor problems in river ecosystems - A conceptual study

Feld, Christian K., Fernandes, Maria Rosário, Ferreira, Maria Teresa, Hering, Daniel, Ormerod, Steve J. ORCID:, Venohr, Markus and Gutiérrez-Cánovas, Cayetano 2018. Evaluating riparian solutions to multiple stressor problems in river ecosystems - A conceptual study. Water Research 139 , pp. 381-394. 10.1016/j.watres.2018.04.014

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Rivers are among the most sensitive of all ecosystems to the effects of global change, but options to prevent, mitigate or restore ecosystem damage are still inadequately understood. Riparian buffers are widely advocated as a cost-effective option to manage impacts, but empirical evidence is yet to identify ideal riparian features (e.g. width, length and density) which enhance ecological integrity and protect ecosystem services in the face of catchment-scale stressors. Here, we use an extensive literature review to synthesise evidence on riparian buffer and catchment management effects on instream environmental conditions (e.g. nutrients, fine sediments, organic matter), river organisms and ecosystem functions. We offer a conceptual model of the mechanisms through which catchment or riparian management might impact streams either positively or negatively. The model distinguishes scale-independent benefits (shade, thermal damping, organic matter and large wood inputs) that arise from riparian buffer management at any scale from scale-dependent benefits (nutrient or fine sediment retention) that reflect stressor conditions at broader (sub-catchment to catchment) scales. The latter require concerted management efforts over equally large domains of scale (e.g. riparian buffers combined with nutrient restrictions). The evidence of the relationships between riparian configuration (width, length, zonation, density) and scale-independent benefits is consistent, suggesting a high certainty of the effects. In contrast, scale-dependent effects as well as the biological responses to riparian management are more uncertain, suggesting that ongoing diffuse pollution (nutrients, sediments), but also sources of variability (e.g. hydrology, climate) at broader scales may interfere with the effects of local riparian management. Without concerted management across relevant scales, full biological recovery of damaged lotic ecosystems is unlikely. There is, nevertheless, sufficient evidence that the benefits of riparian buffers outweigh potential adverse effects, in particular if located in the upstream part of the stream network. This supports the use of riparian restoration as a no-regrets management option to improve and sustain lotic ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Elsevier / IWA Publishing
ISSN: 0043-1354
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 April 2018
Date of Acceptance: 6 April 2018
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 10:38

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