Indexed on: 14 Oct '15Published on: 14 Oct '15Published in: Hydrobiologia
Successful rehabilitation programmes of river–floodplain systems require understanding of environmental impacts of restoring hydrological connectivity. The present study is based on a field experiment carried out between 2008 and 2013 in a floodplain of a lowland river in northern Poland, in which two oxbow lakes isolated in the 1920s were reconnected to the main river channel. Water and macroinvertebrate samples were collected three to four times a year from six sites (n = 114). After reconnection, water quality in the oxbow lakes improved and diversity and abundance of macrozoobenthos increased, especially the density of Oligochaeta, Malacostraca, Trichoptera, Bivalvia and Gastropoda, while the density of Diptera decreased. Water flow and physico-chemical variables were the most important factors explaining their variance. A direct inflow of water into the reconnected oxbow lakes occurred only during the first 2 years of the study, followed by silting and overgrowing of the inlet to the upper arm. We propose that creating semi-lotic side channels connected to the river with one arm and only occasionally flushed with fresh river water is one of the most effective restoration strategies. However, at the whole river scale, the maintenance of diversified hydrological connections is the optimal solution.