, Volume 769, Issue 1, pp 105–120 | Cite as

River restoration and the trophic structure of benthic invertebrate communities across 16 European restoration projects

  • Benjamin Kupilas
  • Nikolai Friberg
  • Brendan G. McKie
  • Maik A. Jochmann
  • Armin W. Lorenz
  • Daniel Hering


River restoration enhances not only habitat diversity in the stream channel and riparian zone, but also retention of organic matter, which together are expected to enhance aquatic-terrestrial linkages, and the range of autochthonous and allochthonous resources. Consequently, alterations of food-web structure and trophic relationships can be expected. We applied stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N) to characterize changes in the trophic structure of benthic invertebrate communities between paired restored and unrestored river reaches across 16 European catchments. We sampled dominant taxa of invertebrate assemblages belonging to different functional feeding groups and calculated δ13C range to estimate the diversity of basal resources assimilated, δ15N range as an indicator of the trophic length and standard ellipse area corrected for small samples as a measure of isotopic niche width. We analysed (1) if restoration influences the trophic structure of invertebrates, (2) if effects of restoration depend on the extent of restoration effort, and (3) if effects of restoration depend on restoration measures applied. Our European-scale comparison indicates that river habitat restoration effects trophic structure, primarily by increasing the breadth of resources assimilated by consumers; this effect increases with restoration effort and it depends on restoration measure type.


River restoration Stable isotopes Trophic structure Food web Freshwater Functional feeding groups Community metrics Isotopic niche 



This study results from the EU-funded project REFORM (Restoring rivers FOR effective catchment Management), European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No. 282656. We further acknowledge a PhD fellowship of the German Environment Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU) to B.K. We are grateful to many colleagues who spent their time sampling in the field and preparing samples and to the crew of the stable isotope facility for analysing the samples. Two anonymous reviewers provided detailed and constructive comments which have improved this paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 289 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Kupilas
    • 1
  • Nikolai Friberg
    • 2
  • Brendan G. McKie
    • 3
  • Maik A. Jochmann
    • 4
  • Armin W. Lorenz
    • 1
  • Daniel Hering
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Aquatic EcologyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  2. 2.Section of Fresh EcologyNorwegian Institute for Water ResearchOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Aquatic Sciences & AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  4. 4.Instrumental Analytical ChemistryUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany

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