Environmental Management

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 285–301 | Cite as

Evaluating the Response of Biological Assemblages as Potential Indicators for Restoration Measures in an Intermittent Mediterranean River

  • Samantha Jane HughesEmail author
  • Jose Santos
  • Teresa Ferreira
  • Ana Mendes


Bioindicators are essential for detecting environmental degradation and for assessing the success of river restoration initiatives. River restoration projects require the identification of environmental and pressure gradients that affect the river system under study and the selection of suitable indicators to assess habitat quality before, during and after restoration. We assessed the response of benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, bird and macrophyte assemblages to environmental and pressure gradients from sites situated upstream and downstream of a cofferdam on the River Odelouca, an intermittent Mediterranean river in southwest Portugal. The Odelouca will be permanently dammed in 2010. Principal Component Analyses (PCA) of environmental and pressure variables revealed that most variance was explained by environmental factors that clearly separated sites upstream and downstream of the partially built cofferdam. The pressure gradient describing physical impacts to the banks and channel as a result of land use change was less distinct. Redundancy Analysis revealed significant levels of explained variance to species distribution patterns in relation to environmental and pressure variables for all 4 biological assemblages. Partial Redundancy analyses revealed high levels of redundancy for pH between groups and that the avifauna was best associated with pressures acting upon the system. Patterns in invertebrates and fish were associated with descriptors of habitat quality, although fish distribution patterns were affected by reduced connectivity. Procrustean and RELATE (Mantel test) analyses gave broadly similar results and supported these findings. We give suggestions on the suitability of key indicator groups such as benthic macroinvertebrates and endemic fish species to assess in stream habitat quality and appropriate restoration measures, such as the release of peak flow patterns that mimic intermittent Mediterranean systems to combat habitat fragmentation and reduced connectivity.


River restoration Benthic macroinvertebrates Fish Birds Macrophytes Environmental gradients Pressure gradients Multivariate analyses Concordance 



This study was carried out as part of a postdoctoral study (FCT grant number SFRH/BPD/26909/2006) funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia of the Ministerio da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior, Portugal. Many thanks to Professor Don Jackson, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada for advice on statistical procedure and how to use the PROTEST software. Many thanks to Luis Lopes, Rute Caraça and David Santos for carrying out work in the field. Comments from two anonymous referees and the editor greatly helped the revision of the original manuscript. Many thanks also to the editor of Environmental Management for help concerning manuscript submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha Jane Hughes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jose Santos
    • 2
  • Teresa Ferreira
    • 2
  • Ana Mendes
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro de Investigação e de Tecnologias Agro-Ambientais e Biológicas (CITAB)Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto DouroVila RealPortugal
  2. 2.Centro de Estudos FlorestaisInstituto Superior de AgronomiaLisbonPortugal

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