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Assessing the Benefits of Forested Riparian Zones: A Qualitative Index of Riparian Integrity Is Positively Associated with Ecological Status in European Streams

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Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden
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Aquatic Ecology Research Unit, Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
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Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), 0349 Oslo, Norway
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Institute for Biological Sciences, University of Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany
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Department of Systems Ecology and Sustainability, University of Bucharest, 050095 Bucharest, Romania
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Department of Computational Landscape Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
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Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, 48149 Münster, Germany
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Research Institute of the University of Bucharest, 050663 Bucharest, Romania
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Freshwater Biological Section, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
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[email protected] and School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2020, 12(4), 1178; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12041178
Received: 9 March 2020 / Revised: 13 April 2020 / Accepted: 15 April 2020 / Published: 20 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Functioning in Rivers and Riparian Zones)
Developing a general, predictive understanding of ecological systems requires knowing how much structural and functional relationships can cross scales and contexts. Here, we introduce the CROSSLINK project that investigates the role of forested riparian buffers in modified European landscapes by measuring a wide range of ecosystem attributes in stream-riparian networks. CROSSLINK involves replicated field measurements in four case-study basins with varying levels of human development: Norway (Oslo Fjord), Sweden (Lake Mälaren), Belgium (Zwalm River), and Romania (Argeş River). Nested within these case-study basins include multiple, independent stream-site pairs with a forested riparian buffer and unbuffered section located upstream, as well as headwater and downstream sites to show cumulative land-use impacts. CROSSLINK applies existing and bespoke methods to describe habitat conditions, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning in aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Here, we summarize the approaches used, detail protocols in supplementary materials, and explain how data is applied in an optimization framework to better manage tradeoffs in multifunctional landscapes. We then present results demonstrating the range of riparian conditions present in our case-study basins and how these environmental states influence stream ecological integrity with the commonly used macroinvertebrate Average Score Per Taxon (ASPT) index. We demonstrate that a qualitative index of riparian integrity can be positively associated with stream ecological status. This introduction to the CROSSLINK project shows the potential for our replicated study with its panoply of ecosystem attributes to help guide management decisions regarding the use of forested riparian buffers in human-impacted landscapes. This knowledge is highly relevant in a time of rapid environmental change where freshwater biodiversity is increasingly under pressure from a range of human impacts that include habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: benthic invertebrates; land use; agriculture; urbanization; riparian management; riparian buffer; nature-based solutions; blue-green infrastructure; climate-change adaptation; protocols benthic invertebrates; land use; agriculture; urbanization; riparian management; riparian buffer; nature-based solutions; blue-green infrastructure; climate-change adaptation; protocols
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Burdon, F.J.; Ramberg, E.; Sargac, J.; Forio, M.A.E.; de Saeyer, N.; Mutinova, P.T.; Moe, T.F.; Pavelescu, M.O.; Dinu, V.; Cazacu, C.; Witing, F.; Kupilas, B.; Grandin, U.; Volk, M.; Rîşnoveanu, G.; Goethals, P.; Friberg, N.; Johnson, R.K.; McKie, B.G. Assessing the Benefits of Forested Riparian Zones: A Qualitative Index of Riparian Integrity Is Positively Associated with Ecological Status in European Streams. Water 2020, 12, 1178.

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