Impacts of an extreme flood on the ecosystem of a headwater stream

Submitted: 2 December 2020
Accepted: 30 March 2021
Published: 8 April 2021
Abstract Views: 1237
PDF: 362
Supplementary: 85
HTML: 18
Publisher's note
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


Headwater streams are the smallest parts of rivers but make up the majority of river miles. The chemistry and macroinvertebrate composition of such streams are among the most important indicators of their environmental health. Macroinvertebrates are affected namely by runoff genesis and, in many regions of the world, also by acid atmospheric deposition and its consequences. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the impacts of an extreme summer flash flood on the physical environment, chemistry and macroinvertebrates in a small headwater stream located in the Beech-woods National Nature Reserve of the Jizera Mts. (Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic). The studied stream is characterized by a pluvial hydrologic regime with perennial streamflow uniformly distributed within the year, with peak-flows originating mainly from summer rainstorms, and moderate current anthropogenic acidification. During the observed summer flash flood of the return period near 1,000 years, high currents (1-2.5 m s-1) flushed out 2.7 m3 of sand and gravel from the streambed, resulting in a devastating effect on macroinvertebrates. Both number of species/taxa and diversity were reduced by about 50% while the abundance of surviving taxa was reduced to about 10% compared with before the flood. The following spring after the event, both number of species/taxa, diversity and abundance increased, partially due to the temporary unsuccessful colonization of the site by several alien species creating a peak of biological diversity, but complete recovery of the original macroinvertebrate assemblages was not observed even during the subsequent two years. On the other hand, a significant drop in sulphate contents and rising alkalinity observed in stream waters during base flow conditions after the flood indicate positive effects on recovery of the aquatic environment by depleting the catchment sulphur pool. Thus, the flood did not significantly alter the long-term recovery of the studied headwater stream from acidification.



PlumX Metrics


Download data is not yet available.


Adámek Z, Orendt C, Wolfram G, Sychra J, 2010. Macrozoobenthos response to environmental degradation in a heavily modified stream: Case study the Upper Elbe River, Czech Republic. Biologia 65:527-536. DOI:
Allan JD, Castillo MM, 2007. Stream ecology: structure and function of running waters. 2nd edition, Chapman and Hall, New York: 372 pp.
Amponsah W, Marra F, Marchi L, Roux H, Braud I, Borga M, 2020. Objective analysis of envelope curves for peak floods of European and Mediterranean flash floods, p. 267–276. In: Leal Filho, W, Nagy, G, Borga, M, Chávez Muñoz, P, Magnuszewski, A. (eds), Climate Change, Hazards and Adaptation Options, Springer, Cham: 1084 pp. DOI:
Beneš F, Horecký J, Senoo T, Kamasová L, Lamačová A, Tátosová J, Hardekopf DW, Stuchlík E, 2017. Evidence for responses in water chemistry and macroinvertebrates in a strongly acidified mountain stream. Biologia 72:1049-1058. DOI:
Chang M, 2012. Forest hydrology: an introduction to water and forests. 3rd edition, CRC Press, Boca Raton: 598 pp.
Dar S, Ganai BA, 2017. Macroinvertebrates as bioindicators of water pollution. Journal of Research and Development 17:86-94.
Davis DW, 2007. Is the current approach to managing flood threats in the United States sustainable? In: Water Resources Engineering (EWRI Conference Proceedings), American Society of Civil Engineers, Tampa (FL): 638 pp. DOI:
Edwards PJ, 1998. Sulfur cycling, retention, and mobility in soils: a review. General Technical Report NE-250, USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station, Delaware (OH): 18 pp. DOI:
Falkenmark M, Allard B, 2015. Water quality genesis and disturbances of natural freshwaters. Water Pollution 5:45-78. DOI:
Fritz KM, Hagenbuch E, D’Amico E, Reif M, Wigington PJ, Leibowitz JrSG, Comeleo RL, Ebersole JL, 2013. Comparing the extent and permanence of headwater streams from two field surveys to values from hydrologic databases and maps. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 49: 867-882. DOI:
Garmo ØA, Skjelkvåle BL, de Wit HA, Colombo L, Curtis Ch, Fölster J, Hoffmann A, Hruška J, Høgåsen T, Jeffries DS, Keller WB, Krám P, Majer V, Monteith DT, Paterson AM, Rogora M, Rzychon D, Steingruber S, Stoddard JL, Vuorenmaa J, Worsztynowicz A, 2014. Trends in Surface Water Chemistry in Acidified Areas in Europe and North America from 1990 to 2008. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 225:1880. DOI:
Godbold DL, Hüttermann A, 1994. Effects of acid rain on forest processes. John Wiley & Sons, New York: 432 pp.
Hardekopf DW, Horecký J, Kopáček J, Stuchlík E, 2008. Predicting long-term recovery of a strongly acidified stream using MAGIC and climate models (Litavka, Czech Republic). Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 12:479-490. DOI:
Herget J, Roggenkamp T, Krell M, 2014. Estimation of peak discharges of historical floods. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18:4029–4037. DOI:
Hickey JT, Salas JD, 1995. Environmental effects of extreme floods. Hydrometeorology, Impacts, and Management of Extreme Floods, Proceedings of U.S. - Italy Research Workshop, p. 1 – 22, WARREDOC, Perugia (Italy).
Holen S, Wright R, Seifert I, 2013. Effects of long range transported air pollution (LRTAP) on freshwater ecosystem services. ICP-Waters report 115/2013, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Oslo: 49 pp.
Horecký, J, Stuchlík, E, Chvojka, P, Hardekopf, D.W, Mihaljevič, M, Špaček, J, 2006. Macroinvertebrate community and chemistry of the most atmospherically acidified streams in the Czech Republic. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 173:261-272. DOI:
Horecký J, Rucki J, Krám P, Křeček J, Bitušík J, Stuchlík E, 2013. Benthic macroinvertebrates of headwater streams with extreme hydrochemistry. Biologia 68:1-11. DOI:
Jost L, 2006. Entropy and diversity. Oikos 113:363-375. DOI:
Knox JC, Kundzewicz ZW, 1997. Extreme hydrological events, palaeo-information and climate change. Hydrological Sciences Journal 42:765-779. DOI:
Křeček J, Hořická Z, 2001. Degradation and recovery of mountain watersheds: the Jizera Mountains, Czech Republic. Unasylva 52: 3-49.
Křeček J, Hořická Z, 2006. Forests, air pollution and water quality: influencing health in the headwaters of Central Europe’s „Black Triangle”. Unasylva 57: 46-49. DOI:
Křeček J, Palán L, Pažourková E, Stuchlík E, 2019. Water-quality genesis in a mountain catchment affected by acidification and forestry practices. Freshwater Science 38:257-269. DOI:
Motulski HW, 2007. Prism 5 Statistics Guide. GraphPad Software Inc., San Diego (CA): 285 pp.
Munzar J, Ondráček S, 2010. The historical precipitation record from the Jizera Mts. still unbroken. Acta Musei Bohemiae Borealis, Scientiae Naturales 28:3-15.
Palucis MC, Lamb MP, 2017. What controls channel form in steep mountain streams? Geophysical Research Letters 44:7245-7255. DOI:
Olsen DS, 1993. Assessing stream channel stability thresholds. Graduate student theses, dissertations, & professional papers 7470, University of Montana, Missoula: 76 pp.
Rashid RA, Pandit AK, 2014. Macroinvertebrates (oligochaetes) as indicators of pollution: A review. Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment 6:140-144. DOI:
Richardson JS, 2019. Biological diversity in headwater streams. Water 11:1-19. DOI:
Rosenberg DM, Resh VH, 1993. Freshwater biomonitoring and benthic macroinvertebrates. Chapman and Hall, New York: 488 pp.
Schöpp W, Posch M, Mylona S, Johansson M, 2003. Long-term development of acid deposition (1880-2030) in sensitive freshwater regions in Europe. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 7:436-446. DOI:
Shaw EM, 2011. Hydrology in practice. 4th edition, Span Press, London: 546 pp.
Smith AJ, Baldigob BP, Duffya BT, Georgeb SD, Dressera B, 2019. Resilience of benthic macroinvertebrates to extreme floods in a Catskill Mountain river, New York, USA: Implications for water quality monitoring and assessment. Ecological Indicators 104:107-115. DOI:
Snyder CD, Johnson ZB, 2006. Macroinvertebrate assemblage recovery following a catastrophic flood and debris flows in an Appalachian mountain stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 25:825-840. DOI:[0825:MARFAC]2.0.CO;2
Stockdale A, Tipping E, Fjellheim A, Garmo ØA, Hildrew AD, Lofts S, Monteith DT, Ormerod SI, Shilland EM, 2014. Recovery of macroinvertebrate species richness in acidified upland waters assessed with a field toxicity model. Ecological Indicators 37:341-350. DOI:
Stubbington R, Greenwood AM, Wood PJ, Armitage PD, Gunn J, Robertson AL, 2009. The response of perennial and temporary headwater stream invertebrate communities to hydrological extremes. Hydrobiologia 630:299-312. DOI:
Stuchlík E, Hořická Z, Prchalová M, Křeček J, Barica J, 1997. Hydrobiological investigation of three acidified reservoirs in the Jizera Mountains, the Czech Republic, during the summer stratification. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2155:56-64.
Stuchlík E, Kopáček J, Fott J, Hořická Z, 2006. Chemical composition of the Tatra Mountain lakes: response to acidification. Biologia 61:S11-S20. DOI:
Tolasz R, Míková T, Valeriánová A, Voženílek V, 2007. Climate atlas of Czechia. Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Prague: 254 pp.
Tureček K, 2002. The water act (In Czech). SONDY, Prague: 114 pp.
USACE, 2000. HEC-HMS technical reference manual. US Army Corps of Engineers, Hydrologic Engineering Center, Davis (CA): 148 pp.
USACE, 2016. HEC-RAS river analysis system. Hydraulic Reference Manual, Version 5.0, US Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources, Davis (CA): 538 pp.
USDA, 2007. Stream restoration design. National Engineering Handbook 654, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA, Washington DC: 54 pp.
Vacek S, Matějka M, Simon J, Malík V, Schwarz O, Mikeska M, 2007. [Health status and dynamics of forest ecosystems under air pollution stress in the Giant Mts.]. [Article In Czech]. Folia Forestalia Bohemica 6:216.
Velle G, Telford RJ, Curtis C, Eriksson L, Fjellheim A, Frolova M, Fölster J, Grudule N, Halvorsen GA, Hildrew A, Hoffmann A, Indriksone I, Kamasová L, Kopáček J, Orton S, Krám P, Monteith DT, Senoo T, Shilland EM, Stuchlík E, Wiklund ML, de Wit H, Skjelkvaale BL, 2013. Biodiversity in freshwaters. Temporal trends and response to waterchemistry. ICP Waters Report 114/Biodiversity in freshwaters: temporal trends and response to water chemistry. ICP Waters report 114, NIVA, Oslo (Norway): 65 pp.
Venutelli M, 2005. A Constitutive Explanation of Manning’s Formula. Meccanica 40:281-289. DOI:
Veselý J, Majer V, 1996. The effect of pH and atmospheric deposition on concentrations of trace elements in acidified freshwaters: A statistical approach. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 88:227-246. DOI:
Wibowo H, Suripin RK, Isdiyana RB, 2015. Comparing the calculation method of the Manning roughness coefficient in open channels. International Journal of Engineering Research & Technology 4:1278-1285.

Edited by

Francesca Bona, Dept. of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin, Italy

How to Cite

Pažourková, Eva, Josef Křeček, Peter Bitušík, Pavel Chvojka, Lenka Kamasová, Takaaki Senoo, Jan Špaček, and Evžen Stuchlík. 2021. “Impacts of an Extreme Flood on the Ecosystem of a Headwater Stream”. Journal of Limnology 80 (2).

List of Cited By :

Crossref logo