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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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.
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.
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.
Billi, P., 1988. A note on cluster bedform behaviour in a gravel-bed river. Catena 15: 473–481.
Boon, P. J., 1998. River restoration in five dimensions. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 8: 257–264.
Boon, P. J., 2004. The development of integrated methods for assessing river conservation value. Hydrobiologia 422(423): 413–428.
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.
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.
Brayshaw, A. C., 1985. Bed microtopography and entrainment thresholds in gravel-bed rivers. Geological Society of America Bulletin 96: 218–223.
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.
Brierley, G. J. & K. A. Fryirs, 2005. Geomorphology and River Management. Applications of the River Styles Framework. Blackwell Publications, Oxford: 398 pp.
Brown, A. G., 1997. Biogeography and diversity in multiple-channel river systems. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 6: 179–185.
Brown, A. V. & P. P. Brussock, 1991. Comparisons of benthic invertebrates between riffles and pool. Hydrobiologia 220: 99–108.
Clarke, K. R., 1993. Non-parametric multivariate analysis of changes in community structure. Australian Journal of Ecology 18: 117–143.
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.
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.
Crowder, D. W. & P. Diplas, 2000. Using two-dimensional hydrodynamic models at scales of ecological importance. Journal of Hydrology 230: 171–191.
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.
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.
Environment Agency, 1997. River Habitat Survey, 1997 Fieldsurvey Guidance Manual. Environment Agency, England and Wales, UK.
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.
Garcia, X. F., I. Schnauder & M. T. Pusch, 2012. Complex hydromorphology of meanders can support benthic invertebrate diversity in rivers. Hydrobiologia 685: 49–68.
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.
Gregory, K. J., R. J. Davis & P. W. Downs, 1992. Identification of river channel change due to urbanization. Applied Geography 12: 299–318.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keller, E. A. & W. M. Melhorn, 1978. Rhythmic spacing and origin of pools and riffles. Geological Society of America Bulletin 85: 723–730.
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.
Lancaster, J. & A. G. Hildrew, 1993. Flow refugia and the microdistribution of lotic macroinvertebrates. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 12: 173–184.
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.
Linklater, W., 1995. Breakdown and detritivore colonisation of leaves in three New Zealand streams. Hydrobiologia 306: 241–250.
Maddock, I., 1999. The importance of physical habitat assessment for evaluating river health. Freshwater Biology 41: 373–391.
McCabe, D. C. & N. J. Gotelli, 2000. Effects of disturbance frequency, intensity, and area on stream macroinvertebrate communities. Oecologia 124: 270–279.
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.
Merigoux, S. & S. Doledec, 2004. Hydraulic requirements of stream communities: a case study on invertebrates. Freshwater Biology 49: 600–613.
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.
Montgomery, D. R. & J. M. Buffington, 1997. Channel-reach morphology in mountain drainage basins. Geological Society of America Bulletin 109: 596–611.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Richards, K. S., 1976. The morphology of riffle-pool sequences. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 1: 71–88.
Robert, A., 2003. River Processes: An Introduction to Fluvial Dynamics. Arnold, London, UK.
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.
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.
Stazner, B. & B. Higler, 1986. Stream hydraulics as a major determinant of benthic invertebrate zonation patterns. Freshwater Biology 16: 127–139.
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].
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.
Thorp, J. H., 2009. Models of Ecological Processes in Riverine Ecosystems. Encyclopaedia of Inland Waters 1: 448–455.
Townsend, C. R., M. R. Scarsbrook & S. Doledec, 1997. The intermediate disturbance hypothesis, refugia and biodiversity in streams. Limnology and Oceanography 42: 938–949.
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.
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.
Ward, J. V., 1989. The four-dimensional nature of lotic ecosystems. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 8: 2–8.
Ward, J. V. & K. Tockner, 2001. Biodiversity: towards a unifying theme for river ecology. Freshwater Ecology 46: 807–819.
Ward, J. V., K. Tockner & F. Schiemer, 1999. Biodiversity of floodplain river ecosystems: ecotones and connectivity. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 15: 125–139.
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.
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.
Winterbottom, J., S. Orton, A. Hildrew & J. Lancaster, 1997. Field experiments on flow refugia in streams. Freshwater Biology 37: 569–580.
Witzigs Ltd, 2012. Witzigs Games. Available online: http://www.witzigs.co.uk/ [Accessed on 27/04/2012].
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.
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.
This study was funded by a UK Natural Environment Research Council Case Studentship (NER/S/A/2006/14226) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Graham Milner, Claire Elliott, Robert Tipling, David Bryden, Romain Roy, Garry Miller, Dr Adel El Metwalii, Dr. Charles Perfect, Roser Casas Mulet, and Dr Adam Butler are gratefully acknowledged for their aqua-sphere catching skills in the field. We would also like to thank Robbie Austrums for cartographic support.
Handling editor: P. Nõges
About this article
Cite this article
Milner, V.S., Gilvear, D.J. Characterization of hydraulic habitat and retention across different channel types; introducing a new field-based technique. Hydrobiologia 694, 219–233 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1164-3
- Hydraulic habitat
- Channel type
- Physical heterogeneity