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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Catchment management science

Substantial investment over the past 10-15 years in the better treatment and more considered discharge of domestic and industrial waste to watercourses has resulted in significant improvements in river water quality across wide areas of the UK.  However, the reduction in pollution pressure from such point-sources has not always resulted in biological recovery and, hence, the focus of attention has now shifted to other stressors acting on freshwaters, such as the impacts of diffuse pollution from agricultural land.

The River Communities Group is currently assessing the influence of agriculture at a catchment-scale through projects for the Welsh Assembly Government (Agri-environment Scheme Monitoring – Ecosystems) and Defra (WQ0128 Extending the evidence base on the ecological impact of fine sediment and developing a framework for targeting mitigation of agricultural sediment losses).  Both projects are seeking evidence to support the hypothesis that, by managing agricultural land in a more environmentally-sensitive manner, the biological condition of watercourses and ponds will be maintained or improved.

Elsewhere the Group has addressed the relationship between stream condition and land use through the use of large-scale and long-term monitoring to link changes in the fauna and flora (and, with Dr Mark Trimmer at QMUL, changes in biogeochemistry) to pressures within the catchment.  The Group managed the freshwater component of Countryside Survey and contributes to the Environmental Change Network.

Collaborators and stakeholders:

Selected publications in this research area:

  • Jones, J.I., Collins, A.L., Naden, P.S. & Sear, D.A. (in press) The relationship between fine sediment and macrophytes in rivers. River Research and Applications, DOI: 10.1002/rra.1486.
  • Jones, J.I., Murphy, J.F., Collins, A.L., Naden, P.S., Sear, D.A. & Armitage, P.D. (in press) The impact of fine sediment on macro-invertebrates. . River Research and Applications, DOI: 10.1002/rra.1516.
  • Armitage, P.D., Hawczak, A. & Blackburn, J.H. (2012) Tyre tracks – unusual contributors to aquatic biodiversity. FBA News 56, 4.
  • Smart, S.M., Henrys, P.A., Purse, B.V., Murphy, J.F., Bailey, M.J. & Marrs, R.H. (2012) Clarity or confusion? – Problems in attributing large-scale ecological changes to anthropogenic drivers. Ecological Indicators 20, 51–56.
  • Collins, A.L., Naden, P.S., Sear, D.A., Jones, J.I., Foster, I.D.L. & Morrow, K. (2011) Sediment targets for informing river catchment management: international experience and prospects. Hydrological Processes, 25, 2112-2129.
  • Foster, I.D.L., Collins, A.L., Naden, P.S., Sear, D.A. & Jones J.I. (2011) The potential for paleolimnology to determine historic sediment delivery to rivers. Journal of Palaeolimnology 45, 287-306.
  • Hawczak, A., Armitage, P.D., Blackburn, J. & Bowes, M.J. (2011) The macroinvertebrate fauna of temporary and permanent aquatic habitats in East Stoke Fen (SSSI), Dorset. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaelogical Society, 132, 165-175.
  • Kemp, P.S., Sear, D.A., Collins, A.L., Naden, P. & Jones, J.I. (2011) The impacts of fine sediment on riverine fish. Hydrological Processes, 25, 1800-1821.
  • Murphy J.F., Nagorskaya L.L., Smith J.T. (2011) Abundance and diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrate communities in lakes exposed to Chernobyl-derived ionising radiation.  Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 102(7):688-694.
  • Lancaster, J., Downes, B.J. & Arnold, A. (2011) Lasting effects of maternal behaviour on the distribution of a dispersive stream insect.  Journal of Animal Ecology, 80, 1061-1069.
  • Dunbar, M., Murphy, J., Clarke, R., Baker, R., Davies, C. & Scarlett, P. (2010) Countryside Survey: Headwater streams report from 2007.  CS Technical Report No. 8/07.  NERC, Swindon, UK.  67 pp.
  • Murphy, J.F. (2010) Quantifying the relationship between land cover and biological condition of headwater streams.  Freshwater Forum 28: 27-44.
  • Trimmer, M., Maanoja, S., Hildrew, A.G., Pretty, J.L. & Grey, J. (2010) Potential carbon fixation via methane oxidation in well-oxygenated river bed gravels.  Limnology and  Oceanography, 55, 560-568.  DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.2.0560
  • Verdonschot, P.F.M., Hering, D., Murphy, J.F., Jähnig, S.C., Rose, N.L., Graf, W. Brabec, K. & Sandin, L.  (2010) Climate change and hydromorphology of rivers and lakes at catchment, site and habitat level.  In Climate Change impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems – direct effects and interactions with other stresses Ed. M Kernana, R. Battarbee & B. Moss, 65-83. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • Williams, P., Biggs, J., Crowe, A., Murphy, J., Nicolet, P., Weatherby, A. & Dunbar, M. (2010) Countryside Survey: Ponds report from 2007.  CS Technical Report No. 7/07.  NERC, Swindon, UK.  77pp.
  • Hawczak, A., Armitage, P.D. & Blackburn, J.H. (2009) The macroinvertebrate fauna and environmental quality of the Oakers Stream, a small tributary of the River Frome (Dorset).  Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaelogical Society, 130, 17-24.
  • Trimmer, M., Hildrew, A.G., Jackson, M.C., Pretty, J.L. & Grey J. (2009) Evidence for the role of methane-derived carbon in a free-flowing, lowland river food web.  Limnology and Oceanography, 54, 1541-1547.  DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.5.1541
  • Johnson, A.C., Acreman, M.C., Dunbar, M.J., Feist, S.W., Giacomello, A.M., Gozlan, R.E., Hinsley, S.A., Ibbotson, A.T., Jarvie, H.P., Jones, J.I., Longshaw, M., Maberly, S.C., Marsh, T.J., Neal, C., Newman, J.R., Nunn, M.A., Pickup, R.W., Reynard, N.S., Sullivan, C.A., Sumpter, J.P. & R.J. Williams (2009) The British river of the future: How climate change and human activity might affect two contrasting river ecosystems in England. Science of the Total Environment, 407, 4787-4798.
  • Carey, P.D., Wallis, S.M., Chamberlain, P.M., Cooper, A., Emmett, B.E., Maskell, L.C., McCann, T., Murphy, J.F., Norton, L.R., Reynolds, B., Scott, W.A., Simpson, I.C., Smart, S.S. & J.M. Ullyett (2008) Countryside Survey: UK results from 2007. NERC, Swindon, UK.
  • Carey, P.D., Wallis, S.M., Emmett, B.E., Maskell, L.C., Murphy, J.F., Norton, L.R., Simpson, I.C. & S.S. Smart (2008) Countryside Survey: Headline messages from 2007. NERC, Swindon, UK.
  • Hilton, J., O’Hare, M., Bowes, M.J. & J.I. Jones (2006) How green is my river? A new paradigm of eutrophication in rivers.  Science of the Total Environment, 365, 66-83.
  • Pretty, J.L., Hildrew, A.G. & M. Trimmer (2006) Nutrient dynamics in relation to surface–subsurface hydrological exchange in a groundwater fed chalk stream. Journal of Hydrology, 330, 84-100. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2006.04.013
  • Newman, J.R., Anderson, N.J., Bennion, H., Bowes, M.J., Carvalho, L., Dawson, F.H,. Furse, M., Gunn, I., Hilton, J., Hughes, R., Johnston, A.M., Jones, J.I., Luckes, S., Maitland, P., Monteith, D., O’Hare, M., Taylor, R., Trimmer, M. & J. Winder (2005) Eutrophication in rivers: an ecological perspective. ADAS Report.


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