Although experiences with ecological restoration continue to accumulate, the effectiveness of restoration for biota remains debated. We complemented a traditional taxonomic analysis approach with information on 56 species traits to uncover the responses of 3 aquatic (fish, macroinvertebrates,
macrophytes) and 2 terrestrial (carabid beetles, floodplain vegetation) biotic groups to 43 hydromorphological river restoration projects in Germany. All taxonomic groups responded positively to restoration, as shown by increased taxonomic richness (10–164%) and trait diversity (habitat,
dispersal and mobility, size, form, life history, and feeding groups) (15–120%). Responses, however, were stronger for terrestrial than aquatic biota, and, contrary to our expectation, taxonomic responses were stronger than those of traits. Nevertheless, trait analysis provided mechanistic
insights into the drivers of community change following restoration. Trait analysis for terrestrial biota indicated restoration success was likely enhanced by lateral connectivity and reestablishment of dynamic processes in the floodplain. The weaker response of aquatic biota suggests recovery
was hindered by the persistence of stressors in the aquatic environment, such as degraded water quality, dispersal constraints, and insufficient hydromorphological change. Therefore, river restoration requires combined local‐ and regional‐scale approaches to maximize the response
of both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Due to the contrasting responses of aquatic and terrestrial biota, the planning and assessment of river restoration outcomes should consider effects on both components of riverine landscapes.
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