, Volume 410, Issue 0, pp 79–86 | Cite as

Biophysical interactions and the structure and dynamics of riverine ecosystems: the importance of biotic feedbacks

  • Robert J. Naiman
  • Scott R. Elliott
  • James M. Helfield
  • Thomas C. O'Keefe


Characteristics of streams and rivers reflect variations in local geomorphology, climate, natural disturbance regimes and the dynamic features of the riparian forest. Hierarchical interactions between these components result in a rich variety of distinct stream communities which, when considered in combination with strong biotic feedbacks to the physical environment, present formidable challenges in discovering and understanding fundamental, system-level characteristics of natural rivers. The objectives of this article are to briefly review the traditional view of hierarchical physical controls on stream structure and dynamics and to show how this viewpoint is changing as recognition of strong biological influences on physical structure are emerging. In combination, identifying natural stream characteristics and the interactions among individual components, as well as recognizing the importance of biotic feedbacks on physical structure, form the basis for establishing effective conservation strategies.

Biotic feedbacks riparian microclimate streams animal-ecosystem interactions 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bartram, W., 1791. The Travels of William Bartram (1928 ed.) Dover Publications, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Beschta, R. L. & W. L. Jackson, 1979. The intrusion of fine sediments into a stable gravel bed. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 36: 207-210.Google Scholar
  3. Beschta, R. L., R. E. Bilby, G. W. Brown, L. B. Holtby, & T. D. Hofstra, 1987. Stream temperature and aquatic habitat: fisheries and forestry interactions. In E. O. Salo & T. W. Cundy (eds), Streamside Management: Forestry and Fishery Interactions. University ofWashington, Institute of Forest Resources Contribution No. 57: 191-232.Google Scholar
  4. Bilby, R. E., B. R. Fransen & P. A. Bisson, 1996. Incorporation of nitrogen and carbon from spawning coho salmon into the trophic system of small streams: evidence from stable isotopes. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 53: 164-173.Google Scholar
  5. Bisson, P. A. & R. E. Bilby, 1998. Organic matter and trophic dynamics. In R. J. Naiman & R. E. Bilby (eds), River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer-Verlag, New York: 373-398.Google Scholar
  6. Brosofske, K. D., J. Chen, R. J. Naiman & J. F. Franklin, 1997. Harvesting effects onmicroclimatic gradients from small streams to uplands in western Washington. Ecol. Appl. 7: 1188-1200.Google Scholar
  7. Butler, D. R., 1995. Zoogeomorphology: Animals as Geomorphic Agents. Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Décamps, H., 1996. The renewal of floodplain forests along rivers: a landscape perspective. Verh. int. Ver. Limnol. 26: 35-59.Google Scholar
  9. Fetherston, K. L., R. J. Naiman & R. E. Bilby, 1995. Large woody debris, physical process and riparian forest development in montane river networks of the Pacific Northwest. Geomorphology 13: 133-144.Google Scholar
  10. Fisher, S. G. & G. E. Likens, 1973. Energy flow in Bear Brook, New Hampshire: an integrative approach to stream ecosystem metabolism. Ecol. Monogr. 43: 421-439.Google Scholar
  11. Graf, W. L., 1978. Fluvial adjustments to the spread of tamarisk in the Colorado Plateau region. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 89: 1491-1501.Google Scholar
  12. Gregory, S. V., F. J. Swanson, W. A. McKee & K. W. Cummins, 1991. An ecosystem perspective of riparian zones. BioScience 41: 540-551.Google Scholar
  13. Haycock, N., T. P. Burt, K. W. T. Goulding & G. Pinay (eds), 1996. Buffer Zones: Their Processes and Potential in Water Protection. Quest Environmental. Harpenden, Hertfordshire, U.K.Google Scholar
  14. Hays, W. J., 1871. Notes on the range of some animals in America at the time of the arrival of the whitemen. Am. Nat. 5: 25-30.Google Scholar
  15. Hynes, H. B. N., 1975. The stream and its valley. Verh. int. Ver. Limnol. 19: 1-15.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, W. C., 1994. Woodland expansion in the Platte River, Nebraska: patterns and causes. Ecol. Monogr. 46: 59-84.Google Scholar
  17. Keller, E. A. & F. J. Swanson, 1979. Effects of large organic material on channel form and fluvial processes. Earth Surf. Process. 4: 361-380.Google Scholar
  18. Larkin, G. A. & P. A. Slaney, 1997. Implications of trends in marine-derived nutrient influx to south coastal British Columbia salmonid production. Fisheries 22: 16-24.Google Scholar
  19. McDowell, D. M. & R. J. Naiman, 1986. Structure and function of a benthic macroinvertebrate stream community as influenced by beaver (Castor canadensis). Oecologia 68: 481-489.Google Scholar
  20. McInnes, P. F., R. J. Naiman & J. Pastor, Effects of moose browsing on vegetation and litter of the boreal forest, Isle Royale, Michigan, U.S.A. Ecology 73: 2059-2075.Google Scholar
  21. Miller, J. R. & J. B. Ritter, 1996. An examination of the Rosgen classification of rivers. Catena 27: 295-299.Google Scholar
  22. Moen, R., Y. Cohen & J. Pastor, 1998. Linking moose population and plant growth models with a moose energetics model. Ecosystems 1: 52-63.Google Scholar
  23. Montgomery, D. R., 1997. The influence of geological processes on ecological systems. In P. K. Schoonmaker, B. von Hagen & E. C. Wolf (eds), The Rainforests of Home: Profile of a North American Bioregion. Island Press, Washington, D.C.: 43-68.Google Scholar
  24. Morgan, L. H., 1868. The American Beaver and his Works. J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  25. Naiman, R. J. & E. C. Anderson, 1997. Streams and rivers: their physical and biological variability. In P. K. Schoonmaker, B. von Hagen & E. C. Wolf (eds), The Rain Forests of Home: Profile of a North American Bioregion. Island Press, Washington, D.C.: 131-148.Google Scholar
  26. Naiman, R. J., P. A. Bisson, R. G. Lee & M. G. Turner. 1997. Approaches to management at the watershed scale. In K. Kohm & J. F. Franklin (eds), Creating A Forestry for the 21st Century: The Science of Ecosystem Management. Island Press, Washington, D.C.: 239-253.Google Scholar
  27. Naiman, R. J., T. J. Beechie, L. E. Benda, D. R. Berg, P. A. Bisson, L. H. MacDonald, M. D. O'Connor, P. L. Olson, & E. A. Steel, 1992. Fundamental elements of ecologically healthy watersheds in the Pacific Northwest Coastal Ecoregion. In R. J. Naiman (ed.), Watershed Management: Balancing Sustainability with Environmental Change. Springer-Verlag, New York: 127-188.Google Scholar
  28. Naiman, R. J. & H. Décamps (eds), 1990. Ecology andManagement of Aquatic-Terrestrial Ecotones. UNESCO, Paris and Parthenon Publishing Group, Carnforth, U.K.Google Scholar
  29. Naiman, R. J. & H. Décamps, 1997. The ecology of interfaces - riparian zones. Annual Rev. Ecol. Syst. 28: 621-658.Google Scholar
  30. Naiman, R. J., H. Décamps, J. Pastor & C. A. Johnston, 1988a. The potential importance of boundaries to fluvial ecosystems. J. n. am. Benthol. Soc. 7: 289-306.Google Scholar
  31. Naiman, R. J., C. A. Johnston & J. C. Kelley, 1988b. Alteration of North American streams by beaver. BioScience 38: 753-762.Google Scholar
  32. Naiman, R. J. & J. M. Melillo, 1984. Nitrogen budget for a subarctic stream altered by beaver (Castor canadensis). Oecologia 62: 150-155.Google Scholar
  33. Naiman, R. J., J. M. Melillo & J. E. Hobbie, 1986. Ecosystem alteration of boreal forest streams by beaver (Castor canadensis). Ecology 67: 1254-1269.Google Scholar
  34. Naiman, R. J., G. Pinay, C. A. Johnson & J. Pastor, 1994. Beaverinduced influences on the long-term biogeochemical characteristics of boreal forest drainage networks. Ecology 75: 905-921.Google Scholar
  35. Naiman, R. J. & K. H. Rogers, 1997. Large animals and systemlevel characteristics in river corridors - implications for river management. BioScience 47: 521-529.Google Scholar
  36. Nanson, G. C., M. Barbetti & G. Taylor, 1995. River stabilisation due to changing climate and vegetation during the late Quarternary in western Tasmania, Australia. Geomorphology 13: 145-158.Google Scholar
  37. Piégay, H. & A. M. Gurnell, 1997. Large woody debris and river geomorphological pattern: examples from S.E. France and S. England. Geomorphology 19: 99-116.Google Scholar
  38. Poff, N. L. & J. V. Ward, 1989. Implications of streamflow variability and predictability for lotic community structure: a regional analysis of streamflow patterns. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 46: 1805-1818.Google Scholar
  39. Poff, N. L., J. D. Allan, M. B. Bain, J. R. Karr, K. L. Prestegaard, B. D. Richter, R. E. Sparks & J. C. Stromberg, 1997. The natural flow regime. BioScience 47: 769-784.Google Scholar
  40. Pollock, M. M., R. J. Naiman & T. A. Hanley, 1998. Plant species richness in riparian wetlands: a test of biodiversity theory. Ecology 79: 94-105.Google Scholar
  41. Power, M. E., A. Sun, M. Parker, W. E. Dietrich & J. T. Wootton, 1995. Hydraulic food chain models: an approach to the study of food web dynamics in large rivers. BioScience 45: 159-167.Google Scholar
  42. Prowse, T. D. & N. C. Gridley, 1993. Environmental aspects of river ice. National Hydrology Research Institute, NHRI Science Report No. 5, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.Google Scholar
  43. Ralph, S. C., G. C. Poole, L. L. Conquest & R. J. Naiman, 1994. Stream channel condition and in-stream habitat in logged and unlogged basins of western Washington. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 51: 37-51.Google Scholar
  44. Reeves, G. H., L. E. Benda, K. M. Burnett, P. A. Bisson & J. R. Sedell, 1996. A disturbance-based ecosystem approach to maintaining and restoring freshwater habitats of evolutionarily significant units of anadromous salmonids in the Pacific Northwest. Am. Fish. Symp. 17: 334-349.Google Scholar
  45. Resh, V. H., A. V. Brown, A. P. Covich, M. E. Gurtz, H. W. Li, G. W. Minshall, S. R. Reice, A. L. Sheldon, J. B. Wallace & R. Wissmar, 1988. The role of disturbance in stream ecology. J. n. am. Benthol. Soc. 7: 433-455.Google Scholar
  46. Rosgen, D. L., 1994. A classification of natural rivers. Catena 22: 169-199.Google Scholar
  47. Snodgrass, J. W. & G. K. Meffe, 1998. Influence of beavers on stream fish assemblages: effects of pond age and watershed position. Ecology 79: 928-942.Google Scholar
  48. Vannote, R. L., G. W. Minshall, K. W. Cummins, J. R. Sedell & C. E. Cushing, 1980. The river continuum concept. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 37: 130-137.Google Scholar
  49. Ward, J. V., 1992. Aquatic Insect Ecology, 1. Biology and Habitat. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.Google Scholar
  50. Welch, E., J. M. Jacoby & C. W. May, 1998. Stream quality. In R. J. Naiman & R. E. Bilby (eds), River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer-Verlag, New York: 67-92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Naiman
    • 1
  • Scott R. Elliott
    • 2
  • James M. Helfield
    • 2
  • Thomas C. O'Keefe
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Fisheries1University of WashingtonSeattleU.S.A
  2. 2.College of Forest Resources2University of WashingtonSeattleU.S.A

Personalised recommendations