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Keywords:

  • macroinvertebrate;
  • substrate;
  • median particle size;
  • hydrological connectivity;
  • abandoned channels

ABSTRACT

Alluvial floodplains contain four types of abandoned channels: old river courses, oxbow lakes, oxtail lakes and riparian wetlands. These result from avulsions, meander cutoffs, ice-jam floods and stem-channel shifts, respectively. With the exception of old river courses, which belong to terrestrial ecosystems, abandoned-channel types are important components of freshwater ecosystems. During 2006–2009, we conducted systematic investigations of macroinvertebrates in three types of freshwater abandoned channels and identified 93 taxa of macroinvertebrates belonging to 51 families and 88 genera. In the assemblage composition, most taxa were similar to those found in river-isolated lakes and river mainstreams. Moreover, abandoned channels supported many unique benthic taxa, which are important complementary resources for the entire river system. In the abandoned channels that were covered with a layer of silt, standing crops were higher than that found in the river mainstream where the bed sediment consisted mainly of sand. Conversely, in abandoned channels that were covered with fine sand, standing crops were lower than in the gravel streambed. Some abandoned channels, such as the riparian wetlands of the East River that are freely connected with the mainstream, were characterized by the highest biodiversity and the greatest biomass. In regions less affected by human activities, abandoned channels need to be connected with mainstreams by flooding at least once every 3 years to maintain at least half of the maximum amount of macroinvertebrate resources. In regions more affected by human activities, abandoned channels need to be connected with mainstreams at least once every year. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.