Innovative approaches for measuring organism stress and behavioural integrity in flume facilities: Deliverable D8-IV

HYDRALAB+ aims to improve the usefulness and value of hydraulic laboratory facilities and is developing experimental guidelines that will allow researchers to successfully investigate complex scenarios representative of natural environments in a context of climate change. Within this framework it is often important to incorporate relevant biological elements in physical experiments, including the use of live vegetation. Notwithstanding efforts to maintain their health by careful husbandry, plants typically degenerate when introduced to flume settings. Physiological responses to degenerating health can affect their interactions with the flow so that experimental conditions are not representative of healthy specimens in situ. There is therefore a need to measure and evaluate the health of plants being used in hydraulic facilities, especially since behavioural integrity might be reduced before there are obvious signs of degeneration. Such measurements are not routinely made so there is a need to identify measurement techniques and methodological protocols for assessing vegetation health status in hydraulic laboratories. This deliverable identifies a technique established in plant physiology and horticulture for monitoring vegetation health status and shows how it can be applied in hydraulic laboratories with minimal impact on organisms. A simple and suitable test among those established in the relevant literature is validated by conducting experiments on freshwater macrophytes. From the relevant literature and the results of experiments reported herein, this deliverable provides an overview of the technique identified and establishes practical guidance on how to properly apply it in hydraulic experiments. The methodological protocol developed can potentially be integrated into established protocols used in ecohydraulics studies as a simple proxy of vegetation health status.