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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(12)

Constraints on the recovery of invertebrate assemblages in a regulated snowmelt river during a tributary-sourced environmental flow regime

Andrew J. Brooks A C, Matthew Russell A, Robyn Bevitt A and Matthew Dasey A B

A New South Wales Office of Water, PO Box 53, Wollongong, NSW 2500, Australia.
B Present address: Department of Environment and Conservation, Lot 124 Bashford St, Jurien Bay, WA 6516, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: andrew.brooks@water.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(12) 1407-1420 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF11128
Submitted: 8 June 2011  Accepted: 31 August 2011   Published: 25 October 2011


 
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Abstract

The impacts of river regulation on aquatic biota have been extensively studied, but long-term assessments of the restoration of biota by environmental flows and the principal mechanisms of recovery have rarely occurred. We assessed whether the provision of an environmental flow regime (EFR) via the decommissioning of an aqueduct on a tributary stream altered downstream macroinvertebrate assemblages in the highly regulated Snowy River, Australia. Macroinvertebrate assemblages of the Snowy River, reference and control sites remained distinct despite the provision of environmental flows. Invertebrate assemblages detrimentally affected by regulation probably remained impaired due to either constraints on colonisation from the tributary stream (dispersal constraints) or unsuitable local environmental conditions in the Snowy River caused by flow regulation (e.g. high levels of fine sediments, elevated temperature regime) suppressing new colonists or recovery of extant populations. Our study showed that restoration may be ineffective if EFRs are too small to ameliorate local environmental factors constraining the recovery of affected biota. Other barriers to recovery, such as dispersal constraints, also need to be overcome. Successful restoration of regulated rivers using environmental flows requires an understanding of the mechanisms and pathways of recovery, together with identification and amelioration of any potential barriers to recovery.

Additional keywords: dispersal, fine sediment, river restoration, Snowy River.


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