dristream3Our experiments are quantifying the effect of stream drought on a wide range of community and ecosystem properties that reflect the functional integrity of streams. We are testing whether the impacts of drought on structure and functioning depend upon the extent of flow change, and determining the degree to which drought effects depend on features of physical stream bed such as substrate particle size and refugium availability. A key aim is to apply treatments that identify system thresholds, non-linear responses (e.g. tipping points) and then determine potential for system recovery.

Key research questions:

  1. Can reliable bioindicators of drought be identified among the stream benthos?
  2. How do key processes (rates of predation, detritivory, herbivory, primary production, ecosystem respiration, and key branches of the nitrogen cycle using 15N) vary along a gradient of drought intensity?
  3. How does habitat structure influence the resilience and vulnerability of ecosystems to drought?
  4. How should river habitats be managed to sustain biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and services in the face of water scarcity and drought?