Aquatic macroinvertebrate biodiversity associated with artificial agricultural drainage ditches

Matthew Hill, Richard Chadd, Nicholas Morris, Jake Swaine, Paul Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural drainage ditches are ubiquitous features in lowland agricultural landscapes, built primarily to facilitate land drainage, irrigate agricultural crops and alleviate flood risk. Most drainage ditches are considered artificial waterbodies and are not typically included in routine monitoring programmes, and as a result the faunal and floral communities they support are poorly quantified. This paper characterises the aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity (alpha, beta and gamma) of agricultural drainage ditches managed by an internal drainage board in Lincolnshire, UK. The drainage ditches support very diverse macroinvertebrate communities at both the site (alpha diversity) and landscape scale (gamma diversity) with the main arterial drainage ditches supporting greater numbers of taxa when compared to smaller side ditches. Examination of the between site community heterogeneity (beta diversity) indicated that differences among ditches were high spatially and temporally. The results illustrate that both main arterial and side ditches make a unique contribution to aquatic biodiversity of the agricultural landscape. Given the need to maintain drainage ditches to support agriculture and flood defence measures, we advocate the application of principles from ‘reconciliation ecology’ to inform the future management and conservation of drainage ditches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-260
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date16 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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