University of Leicester
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Hydromorphological rehabilitation improves channel morphology, instream biotopes, and macroinvertebrate communities, and thus enhances the conservation of an urban river

journal contribution
posted on 2021-09-20, 14:10 authored by Ahmed Faraj Ali Al-Zankana, Lisa S Smallwood, Tom Matheson, David M Harper
Many river rehabilitation projects have been criticized for failing to meet their goals or for being insufficiently monitored. There is, therefore, an urgent need to develop robust approaches for assessing treatment efficacy and thus guide the increasing investment in rehabilitation.
Instream biotopes (formerly called ‘functional habitats’ or ‘mesohabitats’ by different authors) and their macroinvertebrate assemblages were used to assess the effectiveness of entire-channel hydromorphological rehabilitation of a 1.8-km stretch of a lowland stream through the town of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, UK.
The project successfully enhanced the physical diversity, measured in the rehabilitated reach as the coefficients of variability for channel water depth and width, wet surface area, number of instream biotopes, and biotope diversity.
The project also enhanced the biodiversity conservation value, measured as macroinvertebrate total density, total biomass, richness, diversity, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) richness, EPT diversity, EPT count%, and EPT biomass%, all of which significantly increased following rehabilitation. Chironomidae count% and biomass% significantly decreased following rehabilitation. Rehabilitation was also successful in significantly increasing macroinvertebrate shredder, scraper, and filter-feeder group density.
Changes in the macroinvertebrate community metrics in the rehabilitated reach were related significantly to changes in the percentages of cover of instream biotopes and increases in biotope diversity in the rehabilitated reach.
Macroinvertebrate structural and functional metrics can provide quantitative data for assessing reach-level rehabilitation outcomes, if samples are collected in a pre-defined sampling protocol stratified at the instream biotope level.
The practical implications of this work are that the design of rehabilitation projects, if based upon the recreation of biotope heterogeneity, will succeed in improving biological value and restoring the area to near naturalness if a suitable upstream source of macroinvertebrates for natural recolonization is available. The study shows that the concept of biotopes has an important role to play in river conservation management.


Author affiliation

Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour, College of Life Sciences


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems







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