Biological Tools to Measure the Impact of Flow on Ecology in Irish Rivers

Project AttributeProject Details
Project TitleBiological Tools to Measure the Impact of Flow on Ecology in Irish Rivers
EPA Project Code2019-W-MS-45
Lead OrganisationGalway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT)
CoordinatorMartin Gammell
EPA Research 2014 – 2020 Theme(s)Water: Theme 4: Understanding, Managing and Conserving our Water Resources
EPA Research Pillars
Project Start and End DatesStart: 02/03/2020
End (if applicable): 01/03/2023
Revised End Date (if applicable):
EPA Project TypeMedium Scale Project
EPA Award TypeSTRIVE – Project Based Awards
Current Project StatusGrant Awarded
Total Funding Amount349676.16
Project Abstract/DescriptionBecause of the likely detrimental impacts of climate change on Ireland’s aquatic environments over the coming decades, particularly in relation to how alterations in flow could impact on aquatic biota, there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the relationship between flow and ecology in Irish rivers. An increasing number of biomonitoring tools are being developed to measure the impacts of alterations in flow on different groups of aquatic organisms, including macroinvertebrates, fish and macrophytes. However, there has been no real investigation of the relationship between flow and ecology in Irish rivers. The main objectives of this proposal are to use historical and current data from Irish rivers to: (i) test a range of macroinvertebrate flow indices, and develop an appropriate index for use in Irish river monitoring programmes; (ii) test a range of fish flow metrics to develop an appropriate index for Ireland, and investigate the use of statistical modelling to determine optimal flow conditions for sensitive fish species; (iii) investigate the relationship between macrophytes and flow, and develop a macrophyte flow index for use in Irish monitoring programmes; (iv) provide recommendations on the most appropriate use of biological flow indices in future Irish river monitoring programmes. This project will develop a number of biomonitoring tools for measuring the impacts of alterations in flow on ecology in Irish rivers, while also taking broader hydromorphological features (such as substrate composition and channel structure) into account. It will produce at least three metrics using macroinvertebrates as the indicator group, at least two metrics/statistical models using fish, and at least one metric using macrophytes. This project will also investigate the suitability of a multi-metric approach to measuring the impacts of changes in hydromorphology on Irish river biota, and produce a multi-metric index if appropriate. It will also provide recommendations on using the ecological limits of hydrologic alteration (ELOHA) framework for setting river flow thresholds in Ireland. This project will produce a minimum of five papers published in the peer-reviewed literature, a PhD thesis, and a final report to the EPA, providing recommendations on the incorporation of flow-ecology relationships into WFD monitoring. Other expected outputs are datasets of historical and current biological and environmental data at a range of river monitoring sites, conference posters and presentations, press releases and interviews, project website and twitter feed, and the establishment of a citizen science river surveying programme using the MoRPh survey method.
EPA Scientific OfficerKarenRoche

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