Effects of a gradient in river regulation on the longitudinal trends in water quality and benthic algal and macroinvertebrate assemblages in the Hunter River, Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Marine and Freshwater Research, 2012, 63 (6), pp. 494 - 504
Issue Date:
2012-06-25
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River regulation impacts lotic ecosystem processes; however, the effect of a gradient of regulation on these attributes has rarely been studied. This study examined the effects of a river regulation gradient on longitudinal trends in water quality and benthic algal and macroinvertebrate assemblages in three tributaries of the Hunter River, New South Wales, Australia. Longitudinal patterns were expected to differ across rivers, with recovery being proportional to its regulation gradient. Significant differences in longitudinal trends were tested using permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) through exploration of the river by distance from source interaction. Multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) ordination plots identified sites responsible for any significant interaction observed. Similarity percentage analysis (SIMPER) analyses identified variables/taxa responsible for differences at sites below dams. BEST analyses identified environmental variables best explaining biological assemblage patterns. Significant differences in longitudinal trends were observed for all attributes. Increases in the regulation gradient most affected macroinvertebrate assemblages, followed by water quality and benthic algal assemblages respectively. Downstream recovery was absent in the heavily regulated river at its most downstream site, whereas recovery was observed on corresponding sites of the moderately regulated river. The study suggests that a gradient in river regulation increases the magnitude of disruption of lotic ecosystems, with recovery dependent on this gradient. © 2012 CSIRO.
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