The flow regimes of temperate large lowland rivers are manipulated to provide various services for society. Most water policy decisions are based on economic considerations, with little or no consideration toward fish conservation and fisheries. The prerequisite for a stronger implementation of these interests in water policy decisions is the development of appropriate tools for assessing the adequate flow needed to protect fish diversity and fisheries resources.
From the 1970s onwards, environmental flow methodologies (EFMs) have been developed primarily to protect endangered fish species and to maintain fisheries resources in human-modified rivers. Until now, their application had mainly been restricted to small upland rivers and headwater streams. Here, we investigate the applicability of commonly used EFMs for predicting and quantifying the consequences of flow manipulation on fish and fisheries of regulated large lowland rivers.
Among the range of environmental flow methods currently available, habitat simulation methods are promising tools to assess adequate flow and to quantify the consequences of flow manipulation on the temporal and spatial availability of littoral habitats important for fish. However, habitat simulation methods may be effective only with those fish species whose recruitment is influenced by the availability of those habitats. To increase prediction accuracy, habitat simulation methods have to be linked to population dynamic models. More research is needed to improve understanding of the mechanisms controlling the dynamics of populations and assemblages in regulated large lowland rivers. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.