Streambeds are an integral part of the river ecosystem. They provide habitat to a vast array of aquatic and benthic organisms as well as facilitate the bio-degradation and transformation of organic matter and vital nutrients. Increasing anthropogenic influence introduces multiple stressors to the stream networks resulting in pollution of streambeds, which in turn, have detrimental effects on the overall stream ecosystem health. There is a huge gap in the current understanding of streambed pollution and its impacts, and the widely practiced streambed pollution mitigation strategies lack a holistic approach. In this comprehensive review, we first synthesize the state-of-the-art knowledge of conventional and emerging forms of contaminants, their overall impacts on stream ecosystem functions, and present future directions to comprehend the problem of streambed pollution. We highlight that fine sediments and plastics (found especially in urban streambeds) are among the major physical pollutants causing streambed pollution and the chemical pollutants generally comprise hydrophobic compounds including various legacy contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), a wide range of pesticides and a variety of heavy metals. Moreover, in recent years, highly polar and hydrophilic emerging contaminants such as micro-plastics, pharmaceutical waste and personal care products have been identified in riverbeds and streambeds across the world. We stress that the impacts of streambed pollution have been largely studied with discipline-driven perspectives amongst which the ecological impacts have received a lot of attention in the past. To present a comprehensive outlook, this review also synthesizes and discusses most of the understudied hydrological, geomorphological and biochemical impacts of different forms of streambed pollution. Subsequently, we also present a global inventory by compiling information from the published literature to highlight the status of streambed pollution around the globe. In the end, we endorse the positive and negative aspects of the current impact assessment methodologies and also highlight various physical, chemical and biological remediation measures that could be undertaken to alleviate streambed pollution.
Keywords: Eco-hydro-geo-chemical impacts; Emerging contaminants; Global pollution inventory; Pollution mitigation and remediation; Stream and river pollutants; Streambed pollution.
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