Landscape Influences on Stream Habitats and Biological Assemblages

Introduction to Landscape Influences on Stream Habitats and Biological Assemblages

Lizhu Wang, Paul W. Seelbach, and Robert M. Hughes

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569766.ch1

Abstract.—Viewing river systems within a landscape context is a relatively new and rapidly developing approach to river ecology. Although the linkages among landscapes and associated physicochemical and biological characteristics of rivers have long been recognized, the development of conceptual frameworks and tools for measuring and synthesizing such linkages is relatively recent. In this book, authors from the United States and Canada explore new ideas about landscape–river relationships, river research, and river management; compile large regional, spatially referenced, survey data sets on river network characteristics; explore and describe patterns and relationships across survey sites, reaches, and catchments; and develop management and decision tools. In synthesizing these chapters, we have identified key challenges to studying and managing landscape–river systems. Key challenges include identifying appropriate units of measurement and interpretation of the river network, understanding how human alterations of land cover modify river characteristics and biological assemblages, understanding and measuring how various spatial-scale factors interactively influence instream habitat and biota, and collecting and gathering appropriate landscape and instream habitat data. This book also reveals the major current knowledge gaps that deserve more attention in landscape–river ecology. These include improving river–landscape classification, capturing appropriate spatial- and temporal-scale data, developing accurate predictive models where study data are limited, and improving our ability to measure connectivity among river segments and their networks. Future research that focuses on overcoming the challenges and filling the knowledge gaps will substantially improve our understanding of river ecosystems, fuel the development of tools for linking the functions and processes operating at different spatial- and temporal-scales, and stimulate the development of new hypotheses and frameworks to provide foundations for the next phases of riverine science and management.