, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 327-346
Date: 08 Dec 2011

Macroinvertebrate richness on flood defence walls of the tidal River Thames

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The River Thames through central London has seen significant environmental recovery, particularly in regard to water quality, but a substantial barrier to further ecological improvement is the spatial restriction of riparian areas. Flood defence walls represent a potential habitat for ecological improvements to benefit biodiversity. However before restoration actions are considered, an understanding of the current biodiversity and ecological status of these structures is necessary. Physical habitat and macroinvertebrate richness of flood defence walls at 15, evenly spaced sites along a 32 Km reach in central London were evaluated. We found no longitudinal patterns in total macroinvertebrate richness among our 15 sites, but did find that richness was influenced by wall type. Specifically, we found the highest richness on brick walls and lowest richness on concrete walls. Further, wall sections with algal cover supported significantly higher numbers of macroinvertebrates than sections lacking algal cover. However, reaches of the river where the channel was constricted had fewer macroinvertebrates likely due to scouring flows. These results show that macroinvertebrates of the river walls are influenced by habitat availability (i.e., wall type) and localised river flows. This work suggests that appropriate management of river wall habitats has the potential to enhance the biodiversity of highly modified, urban rivers.