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The Effect of Flow Regulation on Channel Geomorphic Unit (CGU) Composition in the Soča River, Slovenia.

By Ian Maddock, Graham Hill and N. Smolar-Žvanut


This paper sets out to examine the effects of flow regulation on the size, spatial distribution and connectivity of physical habitats or channel geomorphic units (CGU) of an upland river system in Slovenia. A river channel survey was completed along three reaches (totalling 14.3km) of the Soča River in order compare an unregulated stretch (reach 1), with two regulated reaches with lower discharges, i.e. a bypassed section that experiences significant flow reduction (reach 2), and a stretch regulated by dam operation (reach 3). CGU’s were classified according to a modified version of the Hawkins et al (1993) system, and mapped on foot and from a boat using a combination of visual assessment and physical measurement. Mapping-grade GPS was used to locate CGU boundaries to sub-metre accuracy, and the application of GIS (MapInfo) enabled the description and analysis of the longitudinal distribution of CGU’s along each reach.\ud Results demonstrated significant differences in the CGU composition between the unregulated and regulated reaches. The unregulated stretch (reach 1) was dominated by the glides (55%) with relatively fast-flowing and turbulent features (runs, riffles and rapids) making up the rest of the reach. The dominant feature of both of the regulated reaches were the slow flowing pool CGU’s occupying 44% of the bypassed section (reach 2), and 76% of the dam regulated section (reach 3), with glides, runs, riffles and rapids forming the remainder of the CGU’s. \ud Physical measurements highlighted the extent to which the reduced discharge in the regulated reaches was dewatering the channel and reducing the size of the CGU’s. The average CGU size in the unregulated stretch (reach 1) was 58m2 of water area per m of channel length (m2/m) compared to 18.42m2/m in the reach 2, and 29.22m2/m in reach 3. CGU’s tended to be shorter, and hence there was greater habitat division or fragmenta-tion evident in the two regulated reaches, particularly the bypassed section. For example, there were on aver-age 6.81 CGU’s per km in the unregulated reach (reach 1), 18.12 CGU/km in reach 2, and 8.08 CGU/km in reach 3. \ud This study suggests that in the Soča River under the flow conditions present during the survey, flow regula-tion alters the dominant types of CGU’s present (to slower flowing and less turbulent features), significantly reduces the size of CGU’s, and affects the longitudinal distribution of types by reducing habitat connectivity and creating greater habitat fragmentation

Topics: G1, GE, GB, QH301
Publisher: National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark
Year: 2005
OAI identifier:

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