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Temporary Rivers

Temporary rivers are natural ecosystems that transition between flowing, pool and dry states, creating diverse aquatic–terrestrial habitat mosaics. These dynamic habitats are common in the UK’s cool, wet climate and take many forms, from headwater streams that may dominate networks in remote uplands, to the celebrated ‘winterbourne’ rivers that cross the chalk of south England.

Our report (available here) uses published and unpublished sources to provide an evidence-informed characterisation of the ‘natural assets’ in temporary rivers. Their physical assets include water, and the geodiversity of sediments and landforms, which, in combination, allow temporary rivers to support a wide range of biological assets: dynamic communities in which aquatic and terrestrial species including rare specialists enhance biodiversity. Physical and biological assets interact to provide ecosystem services from which people benefit, and we identify services that may be enhanced during or unique to both wet and dry phases.

Natural assets in temporary rivers are at risk from interacting water resource, land use and climate change pressures. In addition, our understanding of these ecosystems is limited, and major knowledge gaps relate to headwater streams and the terrestrial species that inhabit dry channels. These knowledge gaps hinder our ability to link assets to the provision of valued ecosystem services, and impede monitoring progress towards specific service goals. As temporary rivers become an increasingly common feature in our landscape, we call for research to comprehensively explore these important but undervalued ecosystems.

Resources - click to view

Reference list

Temporary rivers spreadsheet (contribute online) Google sheets edit online

Appendix 1 - Information Searching Method

Appendix 2 - Long list of potential natural capital metrix

Unpublished data

Carling, B., Doyle, P., Bates, A.J., England, J. and Stubbington, R. Hand search data characterising terrestrial invertebrate communities during a dry phase in the Rivers Hamps and Manifold, Staffordshire, UK. Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK.

Durkota, J. Pitfall trap data characterising terrestrial invertebrate communities during a dry phase in the Lewes Winterbourne and the River Lavant, East Sussex, UK. Environment Agency, UK.

Stubbington. Surber sample data characterising aquatic invertebrate communities during a flowing phase in the River Lathkill, Derbyshire, UK. Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK.

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