The inbuilt long-term unfeasibility of environmental flows when disregarding riparian vegetation requirements
R. Rivaes1, I. Boavida2, J. M. Santos1, A. N. Pinheiro2, and M. T. Ferreira11Forest Research Center, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal 2CERIS, Civil Engineering Research Innovation and Sustainability Centre, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
Received: 27 May 2015 – Accepted for review: 30 Sep 2015 – Discussion started: 19 Oct 2015
Abstract. Environmental flows remain biased towards the traditional fish biological group and ignore the inter-annual flow variability that rules longer species life cycles, thus disregarding the long-term perspective of the riverine ecosystem. Incorporating riparian vegetation requirements into environmental flows could bring an important contribute to fill in this gap. The long-term after-effects of this shortcoming on the biological communities downstream of dams were never estimated before. We address this concern by evaluating the effects of environmental flow regimes disregarding riparian vegetation in the long-term perspective of the fluvial ecosystem. To achieve that purpose, the riparian vegetation evolution was modeled considering its structural response to a decade of different environmental flows, and the fish habitat availability was assessed for each of the resulting riparian habitat scenarios. We demonstrate that fish habitat availability changes accordingly to the long-term structural adjustments that riparian habitat endure following river regulation. Environmental flow regimes considering only aquatic biota become obsolete in few years due to the change of the habitat premises in which they were based on and, therefore, are unsustainable in the long run. Therefore, considering riparian vegetation requirements on environmental flows is mandatory to assure the effectiveness of those in the long-term perspective of the fluvial ecosystem.
Rivaes, R., Boavida, I., Santos, J. M., Pinheiro, A. N., and Ferreira, M. T.: The inbuilt long-term unfeasibility of environmental flows when disregarding riparian vegetation requirements, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 12, 10701-10737, doi:10.5194/hessd-12-10701-2015, 2015.