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An assessment of river habitat quality as an indicator of conservation status. A case study in the Northwest of Spain

Valero, Enrique, Álvarez, Xana, Picos, Juan
Ecological indicators 2015 v.57 pp. 131-138
case studies, conservation status, decision support systems, ecosystems, engineers, habitats, managers, monitoring, riparian forests, rivers, Spain
There are several methodologies for the characterization and evaluation of river habitats. The scientific community has made a great effort in designing the best indexes for this purpose, and they have also been tested in different countries and rivers. Nevertheless, there has not been a transfer of that knowledge to land managers of these spaces or, at least, to those who design improvement and restoration measures. The aim of our research was the assessment of the Riparian Forest Quality Index (QBR), the “Riparian Quality Index” (RQI) and the “Fluvial Habitat Index” (IHF) as indicators of the ecological status of fluvial habitats and their application in restoration projects. The main results of this study were that the IHF index could be used as a support resource and as a monitoring tool to assess the habitat heterogeneity before and after any action is taken. However, when we evaluated the QBR and RQI indexes, the best results were with the first one. The total QBR suggests the urgency level of restoration in the section that is evaluated, and each of its sub-indexes identifies which element of the river is affected. Therefore, it will be a useful tool in decision making for the conservation of these characteristic spaces, especially for engineers who, as a result of their experience in biological and ecological processes, are involved in the design and building of ecosystems, particularly in rivers and on their banks.