Environmental flows are used to restore elements of the hydrological regime altered by human use of water. One of the primary justifications and purposes for environmental flows is the maintenance of target species populations but, paradoxically, there has been little emphasis on incorporating the food-web and trophic dynamics that determine population-level responses into the monitoring and evaluation of environmental flow programs. We develop a generic framework for incorporating trophic dynamics into monitoring programs to identify the food-web linkages between hydrological regimes and population-level objectives of environmental flows. These linkages form the basis for objective setting, ecological targets and indicator selection that are necessary for planning monitoring programs with a rigorous scientific basis. Because there are multiple facets of trophic dynamics that influence energy production and transfer through food webs, the specific objectives of environmental flows need to be defined during the development of monitoring programs. A multitude of analytical methods exist that each quantify distinct aspects of food webs (e.g. energy production, prey selection, energy assimilation), but no single method can provide a basis for holistic understanding of food webs. Our paper critiques a range of analytical methods for quantifying attributes of food webs to inform the setting, monitoring and evaluation of trophic outcomes of environmental flows and advance the conceptual understanding of trophic dynamics in river-floodplain systems.
Rolls, R. J., Baldwin, D. S., Bond, N. R., Lester, R. E., Robson, B. J., Ryder, D. S., Thompson, R. M., & Watson, G. A. (2017). A framework for evaluating food-web responses to hydrological manipulations in riverine systems. Journal of Environmental Management, 203, 136-150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.07.040