The impact of river regulation on the biodiversity intactness of floodplain wetlands

date: 2014-11-13

NIOO-KNAW, Utrecht University and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency


Alteration of natural flow regime is considered a major threat to biodiversity in river floodplain ecosystems. Measurements of quantitative relationships between flow regime change and biodiversity are, however, incomplete and inconclusive. This hampers the assessment of human impact on riverine floodplain wetlands in global biodiversity evaluations. We systematically reviewed the scientific literature and extracted information from existing data sets for a meta-analysis to unravel a general quantitative understanding of the ecological consequences of altered flow regimes.

From 28 studies we retrieved both ecological and hydrological data. Relative mean abundance of original species (mean species abundance, MSA) and relative species richness were used as effect size measures of biodiversity intactness. The meta-analysis showed that alteration of a natural flow regime reduces the MSA by more than 50 % on average, and species richness by more than 25 %. Impact on species richness and abundance tends to be related to the degree of hydrological alteration. These results can be used in strategic quantitative assessments by incorporating the relationships into global models on environmental change and biodiversity such as GLOBIO-aquatic.


Kuiper, J.J., Janse, J.H., Teurlincx, S., Verhoeven, J.T.A., Alkemade, R., 2014. The impact of river regulation on the biodiversity intactness of floodplain wetlands. Wetlands Ecology and Management 22, 647-658.