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Hydromorphological degradation impact on benthic invertebrates in large rivers in Slovenia

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Large rivers are amongst the most degraded ecosystems. We studied a relationship between hydromorphological degradation and benthic invertebrates in large rivers in Slovenia. Five indices of the Slovenian hydromorphological assessment methodology were used to develop a HM stressor gradient. Natural type-specific habitat diversity was considered in the hydromorphological stressor gradient building and thus two hydromorphological types of large rivers were defined. CCA ordination with five HM indices and 315 benthic invertebrate taxa revealed variations in taxa response along the HM stressor gradient. First CCA axis species values were used to develop a taxon-specific river fauna value (Rfi), whereas tolerance values (biplot scaling) were used to determine a hydromorphological indicative weight (HWi). Rfi, HWi, and log5 abundance classes were combined using weighted average approach to construct a River fauna index for large rivers (RFIVR). Several additional benthic invertebrate-based metrics were also tested against the HQM. A Slovenian multimetric index for assessing the hydromorphological impact on benthic invertebrates in large rivers (SMEIHVR) was constructed from the RFIVR and a functional metric %akal + lithal + psammal taxa (scored taxa = 100%). The strong relationship between hydromorphological stressor gradient and SMEIHVR index provides us with an effective assessment system and river management tool.

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The author gratefully acknowledges the members of the project team for their assistance both in the field and in the laboratory, Vesna Petkovska who performed the RHS surveys, David. Heath for his valuable comments and for correcting the English and two anonymous reviewers for providing comments that improved the paper. This study was supported by the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning of the Republic of Slovenia as a part of the national program for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive.

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Correspondence to Gorazd Urbanič.

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Guest editors: H. Habersack, S. Muhar & H. Waidbacher / Impact of human activities on biodiversity of large rivers

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Urbanič, G. Hydromorphological degradation impact on benthic invertebrates in large rivers in Slovenia. Hydrobiologia 729, 191–207 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1430-4

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  • Hydromorphology
  • SIHM
  • Benthic invertebrates
  • Large rivers
  • Bioassessment
  • Ecological status
  • Boundary setting