River ecosystem processes: A synthesis of approaches, criteria of use and sensitivity to environmental stressors
von Schiller, Daniel
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River ecosystems are subject to multiple stressors that affect their structure and functioning. Ecosystem structure refers to characteristics such as channel form, water quality or the composition of biological communities, whereas ecosystem functioning refers to processes such as metabolism, organic matter decomposition or secondary production. Structure and functioning respond in contrasting and complementary ways to environmental stressors. Moreover, assessing the response of ecosystem functioning to stressors is critical to understand the effects on the ecosystem services that produce direct benefits to humans. Yet, there is more information on structural than on functional parameters, and despite the many approaches available to measure river ecosystem processes, structural approaches are more widely used, especially in management. One reason for this discrepancy is the lack of synthetic studies analyzing river ecosystem functioning in a way that is useful for both scientists and managers. Here, we present a synthesis of key river ecosystem processes, which provides a description of the main characteristics of each process, including criteria guiding their measurement as well as their respective sensitivity to stressors. We also discuss the current limitations, potential improvements and future steps that the use of functional measures in rivers needs to face.
Keywords:Aquatic; Ecosystem health; Function; Functioning; Methods; Running water
In: Science of The Total Environment (2017), 596-597: 465-480