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Advancing towards functional environmental flows for temperate floodplain rivers
- Hayes, Daniel S., Brändle, Julia M., Seliger, Carina, Zeiringer, Bernhard, Ferreira, Teresa, Schmutz, Stefan
- The Science of the total environment 2018 v.633 pp. 1089-1104
- amphibians, ecosystems, environmental degradation, fish, floodplains, groundwater, hydrograph, macroinvertebrates, riparian vegetation, rivers, seasonal variation, water quality
- ion, diversion, and storage of flow alter rivers worldwide. In this context, minimum flow regulations are applied to mitigate adverse impacts and to protect affected river reaches from environmental deterioration. Mostly, however, only selected instream criteria are considered, neglecting the floodplain as an indispensable part of the fluvial ecosystem. Based on essential functions and processes of unimpaired temperate floodplain rivers, we identify fundamental principles to which we must adhere to determine truly ecologically-relevant environmental flows. Literature reveals that the natural flow regime and its seasonal components are primary drivers for functions and processes of abiotic and biotic elements such as morphology, water quality, floodplain, groundwater, riparian vegetation, fish, macroinvertebrates, and amphibians, thus preserving the integrity of floodplain river ecosystems. Based on the relationship between key flow regime elements and associated environmental components within as well as adjacent to the river, we formulate a process-oriented functional floodplain flow (ff-flow) approach which offers a holistic conceptual framework for environmental flow assessment in temperate floodplain river systems. The ff-flow approach underlines the importance of emulating the natural flow regime with its seasonal variability, flow magnitude, frequency, event duration, and rise and fall of the hydrograph. We conclude that the ecological principles presented in the ff-flow approach ensure the protection of floodplain rivers impacted by flow regulation by establishing ecologically relevant environmental flows and guiding flow restoration measures.