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The fauna of dynamic riverine landscapes


C. T. Robinson Department of Limnology, EAWAG/ETH 8600, Duebendorf, Switzerland. E-mail:


1.  Riverine landscapes are heterogeneous in space (complex mosaic of habitat types) and time (expansion and contraction cycles, landscape legacies). They are inhabited by a diverse and abundant fauna of aquatic, terrestrial and amphibious species.

2.  Faunal distribution patterns are determined by interactive processes that reflect the landscape mosaic and complex environmental gradients. The life cycles of many riverine species rely upon a shifting landscape mosaic and other species have become adapted to exploit the characteristically high turn-over of habitats.

3.  The complex landscape structure provides a diversity of habitats that sustains various successional stages of faunal assemblages. A dynamic riverine landscape sustains biodiversity by providing a variety of refugia and through ecological feedbacks from the organisms themselves (ecosystem engineering).

4.  The migration of many species, aquatic and terrestrial, is tightly coupled with the temporal and spatial dynamics of the shifting landscape mosaic. Alternation of landscape use by terrestrial and aquatic fauna corresponds to the rise and fall of the flood. Complex ecological processes inherent to intact riverine landscapes are reflected in their biodiversity, with important implications for the restoration and management of river corridors.