Schematic representation of the main river ecosystem concepts

Below is my attempt to represent the main river ecosystem concepts schematically.  Read through the four parts of the brief history to get fuller descriptions of the concepts. From left: the Fish Zone ‘Concept’ (strictly, a typology or classification) defines zones based on resident species; the River Continuum Concept emphasizes downstream processing of imported organic matter and predicts that fish species richness increases with stream size; the Flood Pulse Concept maintains that the seasonal ‘flood pulse’ drives floodplain river food webs, and that the floodplain is a nursery and a food source for fish in the channel; the Riverine Productivity Model emphasizes the productivity of local river-edge communities; and the Riverine Ecosystem Synthesis combines the RCC, FPC and RPM and refers to progressions of ‘habitat’ patches formed by local geomorphology and climate.

Schematic representation of river ecosystem models

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6 Responses to Schematic representation of the main river ecosystem concepts

  1. manuelinor says:

    This is a great little series! Very interesting, you should turn it into a book! Have you read about the Constructal Law or other relevant Physics concepts? A couple of papers that discuss this in relation to rivers below – I’m not a river ecologist, as you know, but there may be something relevant 🙂
    Bejan & Lorente 2010, The constructal law of design and evolution in nature, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 365: 1335-1347 (River Basin Design, page 1337).
    Bejan & Marden 2009, The constructal unification of biological and geophysical design, Physics of Life Reviews, 6: 85-102 (River Basins, page 94).

    • Thanks very much, Manu. I am glad you like it. I have not read the papers which you refer to, but they look very interesting. I’ll definitely follow them up. Bob Newbury’s work in the area of the physics of flow and river shape etc is very interesting. I saw him talk many years ago, and was absolutely fascinated by his description of the physics of water flow and how it contributes to geomorphology, but also how this can be used in river restoration….or not used, to our cost. For those interested in this area, see for example: Newbury, R. (1995). “Rivers and the art of stream restoration.” GEOPHYSICAL MONOGRAPH-AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION 89: 137-137. Newbury R., G. M. (1993). “Exploration and rehabilitation of hydralic habitats in streams using principles of fluvial behaviour.” Freshwater Biology 29: 195-210.

  2. Carol says:

    That’s pretty interesting that you’re making a little series. 🙂

  3. Michael Delong says:

    Just found this, Paul. Quite interesting. I think there is both complexity and simplicity in the RES. A key point is that river networks are complex and it is risky, actually reckless, to take too simplistic a view of rivers if we want to better understand pattern and process within them. ‘Simple and elegant’ is often why we encounter poor correlations between in our studies because of mismatches in scale and comparing rivers that are not good matches structurally or functionally. Even the ‘simple and elegant’ models have long lists of exceptions to the rules in the literature.

    The RES as a whole is simple, but if you focus on the core concept, it is quite simple. The RES is based on: (1) There is a hierarchy of hydrogeomorphic patches from small to large scales that come together to form a river; (2) the nature of these patches will determine the ecological character of each patch; (3) these patches, at any scale, are repeatable within a river network and can be found among other rivers.

  4. Thank you for this scheme it is being very useful to explain the importance of environmental flows. We have an standard to deal with different approaches then, I can explain better why it is important to consider integration of disciplines to explain river functioning, among other issues.

    Kind regards,
    Maria Antonieta Gomez

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