, Volume 694, Issue 1, pp 219–233 | Cite as

Characterization of hydraulic habitat and retention across different channel types; introducing a new field-based technique

Primary Research Paper


Understanding the interactions between physical habitat and aquatic biodiversity has become a key research objective in river management. River research and management practitioners are increasingly seeking new methodologies and techniques for characterizing physical habitat heterogeneity. The physical biotope has been widely employed as the standard mesoscale unit in river surveys. However, few surveys have quantified the combined physical heterogeneity at the meso- and microscale scale via a single technique. This paper describes a new field methodology for assessing variations in hydraulic habitat and retention across different channel types (e.g. step-pool, bedrock, plane-bed and pool-riffle). Hydraulic habitat and retention was measured by timing 100 flow tracers across a 100-m stream length, and recording the types of trapping structures. The pattern of flow tracers and retention varied significantly between channel types and structures. Rocks (boulders and cobbles) were more important retentive structures than eddies and snags (woody material and vegetation). The results indicate the importance of a diverse hydraulic environment, woody material and channel substrate character in increasing physical heterogeneity within a stream reach. The findings suggest that the field methodology may be an effective tool to assess differences in physical heterogeneity pre and post river restoration activities.


Hydraulic habitat Retention Channel type Physical heterogeneity 


  1. Armstrong, J. D., P. S. Kemp, G. J. A. Kennedy, M. Ladle & N. J. Milner, 2003. Habitat requirement of Atlantic salmon and brown trout in rivers and streams. Fisheries Research 62: 143–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Best, J. L., 1996. The fluid dynamics of small-scale alluvial bedforms. In Carling, P. A. & M. Dawson (eds), Advances in Fluvial Dynamics and Stratigraphy. Wiley, Chichester: 67–125.Google Scholar
  3. Biggin, M. E. & M. J. Stewardson, 2004. Quantifying hydraulic habitat heterogeneity: the development of a flow type heterogeneity index. In Rutherford, I., I. Wiszniewski, M. Asky-Doran & R. Glazik (eds), Proceedings of the 4th Australian Stream Management Conference. Department of Primary Industries Water and Environment, 19–22 October 2004, Launceston, Tasmania: 78–83.Google Scholar
  4. Billi, P., 1988. A note on cluster bedform behaviour in a gravel-bed river. Catena 15: 473–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boon, P. J., 1998. River restoration in five dimensions. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 8: 257–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boon, P. J., 2004. The development of integrated methods for assessing river conservation value. Hydrobiologia 422(423): 413–428.Google Scholar
  7. Braaten, P. J. & C. R. Berry, 1997. Fish associations with four habitat types in a South Dakota prairie stream. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 12: 1522–1529.Google Scholar
  8. Brayshaw, A. C., 1984. The characteristics and origin of cluster bedforms in coarse-grained alluvial channels. In Koster, C. H. & R. H. Stell (eds), Sedimentology of Gravels and Conglomerates. Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Memoir 10: 77–85.Google Scholar
  9. Brayshaw, A. C., 1985. Bed microtopography and entrainment thresholds in gravel-bed rivers. Geological Society of America Bulletin 96: 218–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brayshaw, A. C., L. E. Frostick & I. Reid, 1983. The hydrodynamics of particle clusters and sediment entrainment in coarse alluvial channels. Sedimentology 30: 137–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brierley, G. J. & K. A. Fryirs, 2005. Geomorphology and River Management. Applications of the River Styles Framework. Blackwell Publications, Oxford: 398 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, A. G., 1997. Biogeography and diversity in multiple-channel river systems. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 6: 179–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown, A. V. & P. P. Brussock, 1991. Comparisons of benthic invertebrates between riffles and pool. Hydrobiologia 220: 99–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke, K. R., 1993. Non-parametric multivariate analysis of changes in community structure. Australian Journal of Ecology 18: 117–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke, K. R. & R. M. Warwick, 1994. Change in Marine Communities: An Approach to Statistical Analysis and Interpretation. UK NERC and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, UK.Google Scholar
  16. Council Directive 2000/60/EC, 2000. Establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. Official Journal of the European Communities L 327/1: 1–72.Google Scholar
  17. Crowder, D. W. & P. Diplas, 2000. Using two-dimensional hydrodynamic models at scales of ecological importance. Journal of Hydrology 230: 171–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Enders, E. C., D. Boisclair & A. G. Roy, 2003. The effect of turbulence on the cost of swimming for juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 60: 1149–1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Enders, E. C., D. Boisclair & A. G. Roy, 2005. A model of total swimming costs in turbulent flow for juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 62: 1079–1089.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Environment Agency, 1997. River Habitat Survey, 1997 Fieldsurvey Guidance Manual. Environment Agency, England and Wales, UK.Google Scholar
  21. Frissell, C. A., W. J. Liss, C. E. Warren & M. D. Hurley, 1986. A hierarchical framework for stream habitat classification: Viewing streams in a watershed context. Environmental Management 10: 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Garcia, X. F., I. Schnauder & M. T. Pusch, 2012. Complex hydromorphology of meanders can support benthic invertebrate diversity in rivers. Hydrobiologia 685: 49–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gordon, N. D., T. A. McMahon, B. L. Finlayson, C. J. Gippel & R. J. Nathan, 2008. Stream Hydrology: An Introduction for Ecologists Second Edition. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, UK.Google Scholar
  24. Gregory, K. J., R. J. Davis & P. W. Downs, 1992. Identification of river channel change due to urbanization. Applied Geography 12: 299–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Growns, I. O. & J. Davis, 1994. Longitudinal processes in near-bed flows and macroinvertebrate communities in a western Australian stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 13: 417–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harper, D. J., S. Mekotova, J. Hume, J. White & J. Hall, 1997. Habitat heterogeneity and aquatic invertebrate diversity in floodplain forests. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 6: 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Harper, D. M., C. D. Smith, J. L. Kemp & G. A. Crosa, 1998. The use of “functional habitat” in the conservation, management and rehabilitation of rivers. In Bretschko, G. & J. Helesic (eds), Advances in River Bottom Ecology. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 315–326.Google Scholar
  28. Harrison, L. R., C. J. Legleiter, M. A. Wydzga & T. Dunne, 2011. Channel dynamics and habitat development in a meandering gravel bed river. Water Resources Research 47(1): 21.Google Scholar
  29. Harvey, G. L. & N. J. Clifford, 2009. Microscale hydrodynamics and coherent flow structures in rivers: implications for the characterization of physical habitat. River Research and Applications 25: 160–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harvey, G. L. & N. J. Clifford, 2010. Experimental field assessment of suspended sediment parthways for characterizing hydraulic habitat. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35: 600–610.Google Scholar
  31. Harvey, G. L., N. J. Clifford & A. M. Gurnell, 2008. Towards an ecologically meaningful classification of the flow biotope for river inventory, rehabilitation, design and appraisal purposes. Journal of Environmental Management 88: 638–650.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. James, A. B. & I. M. Henderson, 2005. Comparison of coarse particulate organic matter retention in meandering and straightened sections of a third-order New Zealand stream. River Research and Applications 21: 641–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jowett, I. G., 1993. A method for identifying pool, run, and riffle habitats from physical measurements. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Resources 27: 241–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaiser, M. J., S. I. Rogers & J. R. Ellis, 1999. Importance of benthic habitat complexity for demersal fish assemblages in fish habitat: essential fish habitat and rehabilitation. In Benaka, L. R. (ed.), American Fisheries Society, Symposium 22. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD, USA: 212–223.Google Scholar
  35. Keller, E. A. & W. M. Melhorn, 1978. Rhythmic spacing and origin of pools and riffles. Geological Society of America Bulletin 85: 723–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kemp, J. L., D. M. Harper & G. A. Crosa, 1999. Use of ‘functional habitats’ to link ecology with morphology and hydrology in river rehabilitation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 9: 159–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lancaster, J. & A. G. Hildrew, 1993. Flow refugia and the microdistribution of lotic macroinvertebrates. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 12: 173–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lamouroux, N., S. Doledec & S. Gayraud, 2004. Biological traits of stream macroinvertebrate communities: effects of microhabitat, reach, and basin filters. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 23: 449–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Linklater, W., 1995. Breakdown and detritivore colonisation of leaves in three New Zealand streams. Hydrobiologia 306: 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maddock, I., 1999. The importance of physical habitat assessment for evaluating river health. Freshwater Biology 41: 373–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McCabe, D. C. & N. J. Gotelli, 2000. Effects of disturbance frequency, intensity, and area on stream macroinvertebrate communities. Oecologia 124: 270–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McNair, J. N., J. D. Newbold & D. D. Hart, 1997. Turbulent transport of suspended particles and dispersing benthic organisms: How long to hit bottom? Journal of Theoretical Biology 188: 29–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Merigoux, S. & S. Doledec, 2004. Hydraulic requirements of stream communities: a case study on invertebrates. Freshwater Biology 49: 600–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Minshall, G. W., R. C. Petersen, K. W. Cummins, T. L. Bott, J. R. Sedell, C. E. Cushing & R. L. Vannote, 1983. Interbiome comparison of stream ecosystem dynamics. Ecological Monographs 53: 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Montgomery, D. R. & J. M. Buffington, 1997. Channel-reach morphology in mountain drainage basins. Geological Society of America Bulletin 109: 596–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Montgomery, D. R. & J. M. Buffington, 1998. Channel processes, classification and response. In Naiman, R. & R. Bilby (eds), River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer-Verlag, New York: 13–42.Google Scholar
  47. Newson, M. D., D. M. Harper, C. L. Padmore, J. L. Kemp & B. Vogel, 1998. A cost-effective approach for linking habitats, flow types and species requirements. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 8: 431–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Padmore, C. L., 1997. Biotopes and their hydraulics: a method for defining the physical component of freshwater quality. In Boon, P. J. & D. L. Howell (eds), Freshwater Quality: Defining the Indefinable?. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh: 251–257.Google Scholar
  49. Padmore, C. L., 1998. The role of physical biotopes in determining the conservation status and flow requirements of British rivers. Aquatic Ecosystem in Health Management 1: 25–35.Google Scholar
  50. Palmer, M. A., H. L. Menninger & E. Bernhardt, 2010. River restoration, habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity: a failure of theory or practice? Freshwater Biology 55: 205–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Puckeridge, T. J., F. Sheldon, K. F. Walker & A. J. Boulton, 1998. Flow variability and the ecology of large rivers. Marine and Freshwater Research 49: 55–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raven, P. J., P. Fox, M. Everard, N. T. H. Holmes & F. H. Dawson, 1997. River Habitat Survey: a new system for classifying rivers according to their habitat quality. In Boon, P. J. & D. L. Howell (eds), Freshwater Quality: Defining the Indefinable?. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh: 215–234.Google Scholar
  53. Rempel, L. L., J. S. Richardson & M. C. Healy, 1999. Flow refugia for benthic macroinvertebrates during flooding of a large river. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 18: 34–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Richards, K. S., 1976. The morphology of riffle-pool sequences. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 1: 71–88.Google Scholar
  55. Robert, A., 2003. River Processes: An Introduction to Fluvial Dynamics. Arnold, London, UK.Google Scholar
  56. Snaddon, C. D., B. A. Stewart & B. R. Davies, 1992. The effect of discharge on leaf retention in two headwater streams. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 125: 109–120.Google Scholar
  57. Speaker, R., K. Moor & S. Gregory, 1984. Analysis of the process of retention of organic matter in stream ecosystems. Verhandlungen des Internationalen Verein Limnologie 22: 1835–1841.Google Scholar
  58. Stazner, B. & B. Higler, 1986. Stream hydraulics as a major determinant of benthic invertebrate zonation patterns. Freshwater Biology 16: 127–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sylvestre, S. & R. C. Bailey, 1998. Riffle and leaf pack communities from the Fraser River basin: are they redundant? Abstract of presentation at the North American Benthological Society Annual meeting, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 1998. Available online: http://www.benthos.org/database/allnabstracts.cfm/db/Pei1998asbtracts/id/55 [Accessed 24/11/2011].
  60. Thomson, J. R., M. P. Taylor & G. J. Brierley, 2004. Are River Styles ecologically meaningful? A test of the ecological significance of a geomorphic river characterization scheme. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 14: 25–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thorp, J. H., 2009. Models of Ecological Processes in Riverine Ecosystems. Encyclopaedia of Inland Waters 1: 448–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Townsend, C. R., M. R. Scarsbrook & S. Doledec, 1997. The intermediate disturbance hypothesis, refugia and biodiversity in streams. Limnology and Oceanography 42: 938–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vaughan, I. P., M. Diamond, A. M. Gurnell, K. A. Hall, A. Jenkins, N. J. Milner, L. A. Naylor, D. A. Sear, G. Woodward & S. J. Ormerod, 2009. Integrating ecology with hydromorphology: a priority for river science and management. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 19: 113–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wallace, J. B., T. F. Cuffney, J. R. Webster, G. J. Lugthart, K. Chung & B. S. Goldowitz, 1982. Five-year study of export fine organic particles from headwater stream: effects of season, extreme discharges, and invertebrate manipulation. Limnology and Oceanography 36: 670–682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ward, J. V., 1989. The four-dimensional nature of lotic ecosystems. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 8: 2–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Ward, J. V. & K. Tockner, 2001. Biodiversity: towards a unifying theme for river ecology. Freshwater Ecology 46: 807–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ward, J. V., K. Tockner & F. Schiemer, 1999. Biodiversity of floodplain river ecosystems: ecotones and connectivity. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 15: 125–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Webster, J. R., A. P. Covich, J. L. Tank & T. V. Crockett, 1994. Retention of coarse organic particles in streams in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 13: 140–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Williams, A. E., K. Hendry, D. C. Bradley, R. Waterfall & D. Cragg-Hine, 2005. The importance of habitat heterogeneity to fish diversity and biomass. Journal of Fish Biology 67: 261–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Winterbottom, J., S. Orton, A. Hildrew & J. Lancaster, 1997. Field experiments on flow refugia in streams. Freshwater Biology 37: 569–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Witzigs Ltd, 2012. Witzigs Games. Available online: http://www.witzigs.co.uk/ [Accessed on 27/04/2012].
  72. Wyrick, J. R. & P. C. Klingeman, 2011. Proposed fluvial island classification scheme and its use for river restoration. River Research and Applications 27: 814–825.Google Scholar
  73. Zavadil, E. A., M. J. Stewardson, M. E. Turner & A. R. Ladson, 2012. An evaluation of surface flow types as a rapid measure of channel morphology for the geomorphic component of river condition assessments. Geomorphology 139(140): 303–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Science and the EnvironmentUniversity of WorcesterWorcesterUK
  2. 2.Centre for River Ecosystem Sciences, Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

Personalised recommendations