Natural Capital Synthesis Report Project - Temporary Rivers

Lead: Rachel Stubbington, Nottingham Trent University

The natural capital of temporary rivers: characterising the value of dynamic aquatic‐terrestrial habitats

Report now available - download here


From the lead author:

"This report highlights not only the biodiversity of these unique habitats, but also the benefits that people get from them. We hope that this will improve recognition of temporary rivers – dynamic ecosystems which naturally dry sometimes – as landscape features that we should value and protect."


Project Summary 

Pools can provide refuge  Temporary rivers are natural ecosystems that can sometimes lose all surface water. In the UK, they range from the ‘winterbourne’ reaches of our celebrated chalk rivers to headwater streams in remote uplands. Valued during flowing phases for their biodiversity and provision of recreational opportunities, people see dry channels as symbols of ecological degradation. In over-abstracted systems, this perception is correct – but we can overlook the value of natural intermittence, which, due to ‘time-sharing’ of a dynamic habitat mosaic by aquatic and terrestrial species, is associated with high biodiversity.

T- river specialist Paraleptophlebia werneri - photo A ChalkleyHowever, these ‘natural assets’ remain poorly characterised and the ecosystem services that temporary rivers provide, including flood protection, water supply, and pollution control, remain undocumented. Natural intermittence and dry phases are therefore undervalued, and poor public perception can comprise our ability to make ecologically robust, socially acceptable decisions.

Our project will compile published research to characterise the natural assets of temporary rivers and link these to ecosystem services that people value. We will propose metrics to track progress towards service provision goals across wet and dry phases, allowing us to value provision at local to national scales, and informing management strategies that seek to maintain and enhance service provision.


Final report

Presentation introducing project ideas


Photo of Paraleptophlebia werneri  (T-river specialist) provided by Adrian Chalkley.

Webinar Video