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Small Water Bodies in UK and Ireland: Ecosystem function, human-generated degradation, and options for restorative action

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  • William D Riley
  • Edward C E Potter
  • Jeremy Biggs
  • Adrian L Collins
  • Helen P Jarvie
  • J. Iwan Jones
  • Mary Kelly-Quinn
  • Steve J Ormerod
  • David A Sear
  • Robert L Wilby
  • Samantha Broadmeadow
  • Paul Chanin
  • Gordon H Copp
  • Ian G Cowx
  • Adam Grogan
  • Duncan D Hornby
  • Duncan Huggett
  • Martyn G Kelly
  • Marc Naura
  • Jonathan R Newman
  • Gavin M Siriwardena


Publication details

JournalScience of the Total Environment
DateSubmitted - May 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 17 Jul 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2018
DatePublished (current) - 15 Dec 2018
Pages (from-to)1598-1616
Early online date26/07/18
Original languageEnglish


Small, 1st and 2nd -order, 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.

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Crown Copyright © 2018 Published by Elsevier B.V. Crown Copyright © 2018 Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

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