Lowland stream restoration by sand addition: Impact, recovery, and beneficial effects on benthic invertebrates

Paula C. dos Reis Oliveira*, Michiel H.S. Kraak, Piet F.M. Verdonschot, Ralf C.M. Verdonschot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Up to now, most lowland stream restoration projects were unsuccessful in terms of ecological recovery. Aiming to improve the success of stream restoration projects, a novel approach to restore sandy-bottom lowland streams degraded by channel incision was launched, consisting of the addition of sand to the stream channel in combination with the introduction of coarse woody debris. Yet it remained unknown whether this novel measure of sand addition is actually effective in terms of biodiversity improvements. The aim of the present study was therefore to evaluate if sand addition can improve hydromorphological stream complexity on the short term leading to an increase in macroinvertebrate biodiversity. To this end, particle transport, water depth, current velocity, dissolved oxygen dynamics, and sediment composition were measured. The response of the macroinvertebrate community composition was determined at different stages during the disturbance and short-term recovery process. Immediately downstream the sand addition site, transport and sedimentation of the sand were initially intense, until an equilibrium was reached and the physical conditions stabilized. The stream section matured fast as habitat formation took place within a short term. Macroinvertebrate diversity decreased initially but recovered rapidly following stabilization. Moreover, an increase in rheophilic taxa was observed in the newly formed habitats. Thus, although sand addition initially disturbed the stream, a relatively fast physical and biological recovery occurred, leading to improved instream conditions for a diverse macroinvertebrate community, including rheophilic taxa. Therefore, we concluded that sand addition is a promising restoration measure for incised lowland streams.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1023-1033
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number7
Early online date11 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • channel incision
  • instream habitat restoration
  • macroinvertebrates
  • rheophilic species
  • sand addition
  • sedimentation


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