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Title: The hyporheic zone as a refugium for benthic invertebrates in groundwater-dominated streams
Authors: Stubbington, Rachel
Keywords: Benthic invertebrates
Hyporheic zone
Hyporheic refuge hypothesis
Hydrologic exchange
Flow recession
Low flow
Streambed drying
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: © Rachel Stubbington
Abstract: A principal ecological role proposed for the hyporheic zone is as a refugium that promotes benthic invertebrate survival during adverse conditions in the surface stream. Whilst a growing body of work has examined use of this hyporheic refugium during hydrological extremes (spates, streambed drying), little research has considered variation in refugium use over prolonged periods including contrasting conditions of surface flow. In this thesis, benthic invertebrate use of the hyporheic refugium is considered at monthly intervals over a five-month period of variable surface flow, at nine sites in two groundwater-dominated streams, the River Lathkill (Derbyshire) and the River Glen (Lincolnshire). Conditions identified as potential triggers of refugium use included a flow recession and a high-magnitude spate on the Lathkill, and small spates and a decline in flow preceding localised streambed drying on the Glen. During flow recession, reductions in submerged habitat availability and concurrent increases in benthic population densities were dependent on channel morphology. An unusual paired benthic-hyporheic sampling strategy allowed the type of refugium use (active migration, passive inhabitation) to be inferred from changes in hyporheic abundance and the hyporheic proportion of the total population. Using this approach, evidence of active migrations into the hyporheic zone use was restricted to two instances: firstly, Gammarus pulex (Amphipoda: Crustacea) migrated in response to habitat contraction and increased benthic population densities; secondly, migrations of Simuliidae (Diptera) were associated with low-magnitude spates. Refugium use was site-specific, with refugial potential being highest at sites with downwelling water and coarse sediments. A conceptual model describing this spatial variability in the refugial capacity of the hyporheic zone is developed for low flow conditions. In some cases, hyporheic refugium use was apparently prevented by disturbance-related factors (rapid onset, high magnitude) regardless of the refugial potential of the sediments. The extension of the hyporheic zone’s refugial role to include low flows highlights the need to explicitly protect the integrity of hydrologic exchange in river rehabilitation schemes. However, the limited capacity of the hyporheic refugium emphasizes the additional importance of maintaining habitat heterogeneity including multiple instream refugia.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/8376
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Geography and Environment)

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