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Life in turbulent flows: interactions between hydrodynamics and aquatic organisms in rivers

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The turbulent properties of flow in rivers are of fundamental importance to aquatic organisms yet are rarely quantified during routine river habitat assessment surveys or the design of restoration schemes due to their complex nature. In this paper, we review the two‐way interactions between aquatic biota and hydrodynamics in rivers, and key methodological approaches used in their quantification, to encourage more explicit consideration of the importance of turbulence in river science and management. We explore recent advances and issues relating to the study of these interactions in the field, laboratory and numerical modeling, the use of artificial and live biota, and different flow measurement technologies. We also review methods for the quantification of ecologically relevant turbulent flow properties, identifying key descriptors of the intensity, periodicity, orientation, and the scale of turbulent flow structures. Our analysis highlights not only the various ways in which plants and animals modify the flow field but also how this can deliver beneficial effects relating to solute exchange, food availability, oxygenation, waste removal, locomotion, and predator‐prey interactions. It also demonstrates potential threats to growth and survival relating to turbulence, including injury, dislodgement, increased energy expenditure, mortality, and complex influences on predators and prey. We conclude by identifying some remaining barriers to the integration of turbulence into the science and practice of river assessment and restoration but also opportunities in the form of controlled laboratory experimentation, increasingly sophisticated flow sensors and imaging technologies, and numerical simulation of turbulence that could advance understanding in this complex field of research. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1213. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1213

Definition of Reynolds number and laminar and turbulent flow, with example Reynolds numbers for different types of organisms interacting with the flow.
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Decision tree illustrating how the spatial and temporal scales of eddies, combined with fish dimensions, influence the nature and magnitude of impacts on fish bioenergetics. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2015 Oxford University Press)
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Interactions between flow hydrodynamics and aquatic organisms at small scales in rivers. For aquatic plants this includes: (1) depth‐scaled shear generated turbulence formed above vegetation, (2) canopy scale shear generated turbulence, (3) turbulence generated at the scale of individual stems, and (4) at the scale of individual leaves (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2010 John Wiley & Sons.). Additional sources of turbulence associated with plant motion occurring at scales intermediate between the stem and canopy are not shown here. Also showing exploitation of turbulent flow structures for feeding by mayfly larvae (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 1990 John Wiley & Sons.) and blackfly larvae (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 1986 NRC Research Press), and by trout (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2007 The Royal Society.") for efficient locomotion in the vicinity of bluff bodies—*denotes that Kármán gaiting in trout has been observed in laboratory flumes with D‐shaped cylinders rather than natural river channels. Main diagram not to scale.
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