Macroinvertebrate community responses to river impoundment at multiple spatial scales

Hendrik J. Krajenbrink*, Mike Acreman, Michael J. Dunbar, David M. Hannah, Cédric L.R. Laizé, Paul J. Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
198 Downloads (Pure)


River impoundment by the construction of dams potentially modifies a wide range of abiotic and biotic factors in lotic ecosystems and is considered one of the most significant anthropogenic impacts on rivers globally. The past two decades have witnessed a growing body of research centred on quantifying the effects of river impoundment, with a focus on mitigating and managing the effects of individual large dams. This study presents a novel multi-scale comparison of paired downstream and control sites associated with multiple water supply reservoirs (n = 80) using a spatially extensive multi-year dataset. Macroinvertebrate community structure and indices were analysed in direct association with spatial (e.g. region) and temporal variables (e.g. season) to identify consistent patterns in ecological responses to impoundment. Macroinvertebrate communities at monitoring sites downstream of water supply reservoirs differed significantly from those at control sites at larger spatial scales, both in terms of community structure and taxa richness. The effect was most significant at the regional scale, while biogeographical factors appeared to be important drivers of community differences at the national scale. Water supply reservoirs dampened natural seasonal patterns in community structure at sites downstream of impoundments. Generally, taxonomic richness was higher and %EPT richness lower at downstream sites. Biomonitoring indices used for river management purposes were able to detect community differences, demonstrating their sensitivity to river regulation activities. The results presented improve our understanding of the spatially extensive and long-term effects of water supply reservoirs on instream communities and provide a basis for the future implementation of mitigation measures on impounded rivers and heavily modified waterbodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2648-2656
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date27 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2019


  • Biomonitoring
  • Heavily modified waterbodies
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • National-scale analysis
  • River regulation
  • Water supply reservoirs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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