A comparison of habitat diversity and interannual habitat dynamics in actively and passively restored mountain rivers of Germany
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We compared habitat diversity and morphodynamics of ‘actively’ restored reaches (including removal of bank fixation, widening and large wood placement) with ‘passively’ restored reaches (abandonment of channel maintenance) and adjacent non-restored control reaches in medium-sized Central European mountain rivers. Habitat diversity and river morphology were mapped in two consecutive years and changes in habitat composition (channel features, substrates) and morphological changes (active depth and width) were quantified. In both years, habitat diversity was generally higher in the restored reaches compared to their non-restored counterparts, and significantly differed between restoration approaches, with average values in actively restored reaches being about 60% larger than in passively restored reaches. Channel feature composition differed significantly, both between restored and unrestored reaches, and between restoration approaches, whereas substrate composition was similar in all investigated reaches, indicating that restoration had a higher effect on mesohabitat than on microhabitat conditions. Interannual habitat dynamics in respect to channel feature composition were larger in the actively restored compared to the passively restored reaches, while substrate composition remained fairly constant in all reaches. Regarding morphodynamics, changes in depth and width of actively restored reaches differed significantly from changes in passively restored ones in three of the four elements compared. Our findings imply increased habitat richness, diversity and habitat dynamics in the restored reaches, especially in actively restored ones. Analysis of discharge data suggests that flood events exceeding critical shear stress of the bed material, and the time span since restoration determine the potential for morphological changes.
KeywordsActive restoration Passive restoration Habitat diversity Morphodynamics Annual changes Hydromorphology Critical shear stress Floods
This study was funded by the EU Integrated Project Euro-Limpacs (GOCE-CT-2003-505540). The first author received financial support by a PhD Scholarship of the German Business Foundation (Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft) and the research funding programme ‘LOEWE—Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz’ of Hesse’s Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and the Arts. We are grateful to several authorities for providing information and data, particularly to Herbert Diehl and Wolfgang Klump from the Hesse State Environmental Agency in Giessen and Wiesbaden for various types of information on the Lahn sites, and the State Environmental Agencies in Cologne, Siegen and Trier for providing discharge data.
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