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Durham e-Theses
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Many rivers in developed regions experienced a strong decline in ecological function during the Industrial Revolution, due to poor water quality, degraded habitat and diminished hydrological connectivity. Post-industrially, water quality has dramatically improved in many rivers, and clean-water indicator species have returned, yet such rivers often remain very fragmented by river engineering, with locally degraded habitat and resultant effects on ecological communities, especially of fishes. River restoration activities are widespread, but their effectiveness in restoring biodiversity and ecological function remain poorly known. This study explores the causes of decline of fish populations in rivers of industrial North East England, their partial recovery, and the role of river restoration, especially through removal and mitigation of anthropogenic river barriers.
In a historical review of the decline and partial recovery of the rivers Tyne, Wear and Tees, and their fish stocks, it was found that before the 19th Century Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and sea trout (Salmo trutta) were abundant in all three rivers. These catchments were subject to heavy industry and urbanization, instream barrier construction, and industrial pollution from the 19th Century to the mid-20th Century, during which time their fish stocks dramatically declined. Following decreased heavy industry, closure of mines and improvements in wastewater treatment, salmon and sea trout started to recover in the Tyne and Wear from the 1960s onwards and stabilized in recent years; these rivers are now the first and second best salmon rivers in England, in terms of angler catches. By comparison, anadromous salmonid numbers in the Tees increased much more slowly, potentially and partly due to impacts from the Tees Barrage. In general, the potential for recovery of anadromous salmonid stocks in post-industrial Pennine rivers appears driven by both accessibility and survival in the river, through effects of barriers, pollution and predators.
Since river reconnection programmes require barrier inventories for restoration planning,the adequacy of the current national barrier inventory was assessed by field surveying two medium-sized catchments, the Wear and the Tees. The national river barrier inventory was found to be highly incomplete. From surveyed reaches across both catchments, 77.3% of barriers were found to be missing from the national database, including 68.6% of artificial barriers and 82.6% of natural barriers. Only 21.5% of artificial barriers had been removed or mitigated in both catchments, suggesting that river restoration in Northeast England, and perhaps in England more generally, still has a long way to go.
The effectiveness of barrier removal on habitat change and responses of fish and invertebrate communities was studied in a small stream joining the Tees estuary. Removal of a small tidal barrier increased habitat diversity immediately upstream, while changes in the invertebrate community up- and downstream were minor and transitory. A dramatic and sustained increase in fish density occurred in the previously impounded zone. The upstream recolonization of European eel (Anguilla anguilla) was greatly increased within two years. The eel density in the previously impounded zone increased from 0.5 per 100 m2 before barrier removal to 32.5 per 100 m2 five months after removal. In contrast, the population of brown/sea trout (S. trutta) has not yet benefitted from barrier removal, suggesting wider catchment management such as habitat and water quality improvements are required to complement connectivity restoration.
In rivers or tributaries with multiple barriers, catchment-scale connectivity restoration may be needed to help restore the density and distribution of diadromous and river-resident fish species. Extensive within-tributary fish sampling was used to determine local and sub-catchment responses to partial connectivity restoration. It was found that benefits of connectivity restoration in streams with many barriers may take several years to develop and that stochastic events on fish populations can obscure restoration responses. Compared with fish pass installation, barrier removal was found to be more effective in restoring lotic habitat and fish species, and facilitating movement of poorly dispersing species such as bullhead (Cottus perifretum). Findings of this thesis underline the importance of managing in-stream barriers sensitively, and have contributed to our understanding of the effects of connectivity restoration on post-industrial rivers.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:habitat restoration; river management; recolonisation; dam removal; salmonid; Anguilla anguilla
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Biological and Biomedical Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 May 2021 15:45

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