MSc Freshwater and Coastal Science, UCL/QMUL (2008)
BSc Geography University of Manchester (2004)
Dr Nigel Willby
Prof. Dave Gilvear
Start Date: 1st November 2012
3A135, Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling, Scotland, FK9 4LA
Investigating the responses of in-channel biota to the hydromorphological modifications of river channels
Requirements within the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) to assess the channel hydraulic conditions and fluvial geomorphology, or hydromorphology’ of river channels have revealed a significant knowledge gap in river science and management.
Empirical evidence proving causality, magnitude and mechanisms of the effects of hydromorphological change on stream biological communities and processes is lacking. As a result the understanding of the diverse interactions between biotic and abiotic elements of streams is poor.
Rivers are naturally highly variable systems with many processes operating over a range of spatial and temporal scales with feedback between them. Direct engineering works such as sediment dredging and channel realignment combined with diffuse landscape scale pressures such as increased fine sediment delivery and nutrient enrichment results in multiple and interacting pressures that are difficult to isolate from one another.
Monitoring has not traditionally considered hydromorphological impacts specifically and biological sampling has not always followed sound scientific principles. In an ideal situation the biological elements of the stream would be measured in a way that accurately reflects the condition of geomorphological and hydrological elements important to individuals and communities, integrating the physical parameters over a range of biologically meaningful scales of space and time.
This SEPA and Stirling University funded PhD project aims to utilise a hypothesis-driven approach to design field data collection and analysis strategies capable of isolating engineering pressure signals in biotic data. Sampling will measure the composition and functioning of macroinvertebrates and macrophyte communities along with the biologically relevant channel hydromorphological and chemical parameters.