Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 14, pp 3075–3092 | Cite as

Squeezed out: the consequences of riparian zone modification for specialist invertebrates

  • Paul SinnaduraiEmail author
  • T. H. Jones
  • S. J. Ormerod
Original Paper


While anthropogenic biodiversity loss in fresh waters is among the most rapid of all ecosystems, impacts on the conservation of associated riparian zones are less well documented. Riverine ecotones are particularly vulnerable to the combined ‘squeeze’ between land-use encroachment, discharge regulation and climate change. Over a 3-year period of persistent low discharge in a regulated, temperate river system (River Usk, Wales, UK; 2009–2011), specialist carabid beetles on exposed riverine sediments (ERS) were used as model organisms to test the hypotheses that catchment-scale flow modification affects riparian zone invertebrates more than local habitat character, and that this modification is accompanied by associated succession among the Carabidae. Annual summer discharge during the study period was among the lowest of the preceding 12 years, affecting carabid assemblages. The richness of specialist ERS carabids declined, while generalist carabid species’ populations either increased in abundance or remained stable. Community composition also changed, as three (Bembidion prasinum, B. decorum and B. punctulatum) of the four dominant carabids typical of ERS increased in abundance while B. atrocaeruleum decreased. Despite significant inter-annual variation in habitat quality and the encroachment of ground vegetation, beetle assemblages more closely tracked reach-scale variations between sites or catchment-scale variations through time. These data from multiple sites and years illustrate how ERS Carabidae respond to broad-scale discharge variations more than local habitat character. This implies that the maintenance of naturally variable flow regimes is at least as important to the conservation of ERS and their dependent assemblages as are site-scale measures.


Beetles Climate change Bembidion Discharge Exposed riverine sediments Regulation 



The landowners Chris Alford, Helen and Richard Roderick, Geoff Williams and Sue Williams gave permission for fieldwork. Brian Levy, National Museum of Wales, provided assistance with beetle identification. The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority supported all research. Insightful and helpful comments were provided by two anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1220_MOESM1_ESM.docx (73 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 74 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiff School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Brecon Beacons National Park AuthorityBreconUK

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