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Riparian quality and habitat heterogeneity assessment in Cantabrian rivers

Abstract: In this study, we attempted to assess riparian quality and river habitat heterogeneity as part of the conservation status assessment of the Habitats Directive (EC, 1992) in the rivers included in the Nature 2000 network of Cantabria, Northern Spain. We chose the Qualitat del Bosc de Ribera (QBR) and the Riparian Quality Index (RQI) to assess riparian quality and the Índice de Habitabilidad Fluvial (IHF) and Habitat Quality Assessment (HQA) to assess the river habitat heterogeneity. The present study aims to compare the performance of the QBR and RQI for assessing riparian quality (RQ) and of the IHF and HQA for assessing river habitat heterogeneity (RHH). With a higher score in each index, the site has a higher likelihood of belonging to a reference condition and also of reaching a higher biological integrity. Thus, we used logistic binary regressions of RQ and RHH to determine the relationships between the attributes evaluated by each of the four indices and reference/non-reference conditions. We also looked into the relationships between RQ and RHH as well as between these indices and the local macroinvertebrate communities. We surveyed riparian vegetation and river habitat characteristics in a total of 285 river reaches, each 500 m in length, along the fluvial network of Cantabria. These data were combined with previous macroinvertebrate community records from a total of 52 river reaches, and the Index of Average Score per Taxon (IASPT) metric was calculated for comparison. Reference condition sites were selected in 10 river types for the purpose of the present study on the basis of (1) unaltered discharge, (2) non-intensive land uses and (3) no or minimal morphological changes. There were 96 river reaches that matched the reference conditions. QBR and RQI were sensitive to both reference and nonreference conditions in the official river types and were larger in reference conditions than in non-reference conditions for most of the river types. However, IHF and HQA could only differentiate some of the river types and could not distinguish between reference and non-reference conditions. Moreover, IHF and HQA did not have a similar response to human modifications across river types, as reference reaches presented larger or lower values than non-reference conditions depending on the river type. Finally, RQ was positively correlated to RHH, and IASPT increased with both. We concluded that RQI and HQA performed slightly better than QBR and IHF indices to distinguish between reference and non-reference sites in the rivers of Cantabria and that river habitat heterogeneity should not be used to assess river habitat quality.

 Autoría: Barquín J., Fernández D., Álvarez-Cabria M., Peñas F.,

 Fuente: Limnetica 2011, 30( 2), 329-346

 Editorial: Asociación Ibérica de Limnología

 Año de publicación: 2011

 Nº de páginas: 18

 Tipo de publicación: Artículo de Revista

 DOI: 10.23818/limn.30.24

 ISSN: 0213-8409,1989-1806

 Proyecto español: CTM-2009- 07447