Small Water Bodies in Great Britain and Ireland: Ecosystem function, human-generated degradation, and options for restorative action – read publication here.
Small headwater streams and ponds play essential roles in providing natural flood control, trapping sediments and contaminants, retaining nutrients, and maintaining biological diversity, which extend into downstream reaches, lakes and estuaries.
However, the large geographic extent and high connectivity of these small water bodies with the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem makes them particularly vulnerable to growing land-use pressures and environmental change. The greatest pressure on the physical processes in these waters has been their extension and modification for agricultural and forestry drainage, resulting in highly modified discharge and temperature regimes that have implications for flood and drought control further downstream. The extensive length of the small stream network exposes rivers to a wide range of inputs, including nutrients, pesticides, heavy metals, sediment and emerging contaminants.
Small water bodies have also been affected by invasions of non-native species, which along with the physical and chemical pressures, have affected most groups of organisms with consequent implications for the wider biodiversity within the catchment. Reducing the impacts and restoring the natural ecosystem function of these water bodies requires a three-tiered approach based on: restoration of channel hydromorphological dynamics; restoration and management of the riparian zone; and management of activities in the wider catchment that have both point-source and diffuse impacts. Such activities are expensive and so emphasis must be placed on integrated programmes that provide multiple benefits. Practical options need to be promoted through legislative regulation, financial incentives, markets for resource services and voluntary codes and actions.
- Small Water Bodies (SWB) provide a suite of vital ecosystem services.
- Hydromorphology of SWBs makes them highly vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures.
- Land-use and environmental changes are disrupting the ecosystem functions of SWBs.
- 3-tier restoration is needed: channel, riparian and wider catchment management.
- Success will require government prioritization, expert advice, and stakeholder buy-in.
Source – www.sciencedirect.com