Influence of technical maintenance measures on ecological status of agricultural lowland rivers - Systematic review and implications for river management

Sci Total Environ. 2018 Jun 15;627:189-199. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.01.235. Epub 2018 Feb 3.


Intensification of agriculture and ongoing urban sprawl exacerbate pressures on rivers. Small rivers in agricultural landscapes are especially exposed to excessive technical actions implemented in order to allow for harvesting river water for irrigation, draining agricultural water and receiving sewage. Regular dredging and macrophyte removal strongly interfere with the global need for preserving river biodiversity that allows agricultural lowland rivers to remain refuges for a variety of species, and-accordingly-to keep water bodies resilient for the benefit of society. In order to provide a comprehensive look at the influence of agricultural lowland river management on the ecological status of these water bodies, we conducted a literature review and a meta-analysis. For the structured literature review we selected 203 papers reflecting on the response of aquatic ecosystems to dredging and macrophyte management actions. The database of scientific contributions developed for our study consists of papers written by the authors from 33 countries (first authorship) addressing dredging, macrophyte removal, status of fish and macroinvertebrates as well as the general ecological status of lowland agricultural rivers. We revealed that 96% of the analyzed papers indicated unilateral, negative responses of aquatic ecosystems, particularly macroinvertebrates, ichthyofauna and macrophyte composition, to maintenance measures. We revealed that studies conducted in the European Union on the ecological status of rivers appeared to significantly increase in quantity after the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. Finally, we concluded that day-to-day management of lowland agricultural rivers requires revision in terms of compliance with environmental conservation requirements and the recurrent implementation of technical measures for river maintenance.

Keywords: Agriculture; Ecosystem; Management; River; Water Framework Directive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecology
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Rivers / chemistry*