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Small Water Bodies in Great Britain and Ireland: Ecosystem function, human-generated degradation, and options for restorative action

Riley, William D.; Potter, Edward C.E.; Biggs, Jeremy; Collins, Adrian L.; Jarvie, Helen P.; Jones, J. Iwan; Kelly-Quinn, Mary; Ormerod, Steve J.; Sear, David A.; Wilby, Robert L.; Broadmeadow, Samantha; Brown, Colin D.; Chanin, Paul; Copp, Gordon H.; Cowx, Ian G.; Grogan, Adam; Hornby, Duncan D.; Huggett, Duncan; Kelly, Martyn G.; Naura, Marc; Newman, Jonathan R.; Siriwardena, Gavin M.


William D. Riley

Edward C.E. Potter

Jeremy Biggs

Adrian L. Collins

Helen P. Jarvie

J. Iwan Jones

Mary Kelly-Quinn

Steve J. Ormerod

David A. Sear

Robert L. Wilby

Samantha Broadmeadow

Colin D. Brown

Paul Chanin

Gordon H. Copp

Ian G. Cowx

Adam Grogan

Duncan D. Hornby

Duncan Huggett

Martyn G. Kelly

Marc Naura

Jonathan R. Newman

Gavin M. Siriwardena


© 2018 Small, 1st and 2nd-order, headwater streams and ponds play essential roles in providing natural flood control, trapping sediments and contaminants, retaining nutrients, and maintaining biological diversity, which extend into downstream reaches, lakes and estuaries. However, the large geographic extent and high connectivity of these small water bodies with the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem makes them particularly vulnerable to growing land-use pressures and environmental change. The greatest pressure on the physical processes in these waters has been their extension and modification for agricultural and forestry drainage, resulting in highly modified discharge and temperature regimes that have implications for flood and drought control further downstream. The extensive length of the small stream network exposes rivers to a wide range of inputs, including nutrients, pesticides, heavy metals, sediment and emerging contaminants. Small water bodies have also been affected by invasions of non-native species, which along with the physical and chemical pressures, have affected most groups of organisms with consequent implications for the wider biodiversity within the catchment. Reducing the impacts and restoring the natural ecosystem function of these water bodies requires a three-tiered approach based on: restoration of channel hydromorphological dynamics; restoration and management of the riparian zone; and management of activities in the wider catchment that have both point-source and diffuse impacts. Such activities are expensive and so emphasis must be placed on integrated programmes that provide multiple benefits. Practical options need to be promoted through legislative regulation, financial incentives, markets for resource services and voluntary codes and actions.


Riley, W. D., Potter, E. C., Biggs, J., Collins, A. L., Jarvie, H. P., Jones, J. I., …Siriwardena, G. M. (2018). Small Water Bodies in Great Britain and Ireland: Ecosystem function, human-generated degradation, and options for restorative action. The Science of the total environment, 645, 1598-1616.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 17, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 26, 2018
Publication Date Dec 15, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 29, 2018
Journal Science of the Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Electronic ISSN 1879-1026
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 645
Pages 1598-1616
Keywords Streams; Ponds; Headwaters; Anthropogenic pressures; Remediation; Ecosystem services
Public URL
Publisher URL


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