Drivers of macroinvertebrate community structure in unmodified streams.
ABSTRACT: Often simple metrics are used to summarise complex patterns in stream benthic ecology, thus it is important to understand how well these metrics can explain the finer-scale underlying environmental variation often hidden by coarser-scale influences. I sampled 47 relatively pristine streams in the central North Island of New Zealand in 2007 and (1) evaluated the local-scale drivers of macroinvertebrate community structure as well as both diversity and biomonitoring metrics in this unmodified landscape, and (2) assessed whether these drivers were similar for commonly used univariate metrics and multivariate structure. The drivers of community metrics and multivariate structure were largely similar, with % canopy cover and resource supply metrics the most commonly identified environmental drivers in these pristine streams. For an area with little to no anthropogenic influence, substantial variation was explained in the macroinvertebrate community (up to 70% on the first two components of a partial least squares regression), with both uni- and multivariate approaches. This research highlights two important points: (1) the importance of considering natural underlying environmental variation when assessing the response to coarse environmental gradients, and (2) the importance of considering canopy cover presence when assessing the impact of stressors on stream macroinvertebrate communities.
Project description:Land use is known to alter the nature of land-water interactions, but the potential effects of widespread forest management on headwaters in boreal regions remain poorly understood. We evaluated the importance of catchment land use, land cover, and local stream variables for macroinvertebrate community and functional trait diversity in 18 boreal headwater streams. Variation in macroinvertebrate metrics was often best explained by in-stream variables, primarily water chemistry (e.g. pH). However, variation in stream variables was, in turn, significantly associated with catchment-scale forestry land use. More specifically, streams running through catchments that were dominated by young (11-50 years) forests had higher pH, greater organic matter standing stock, higher abundance of aquatic moss, and the highest macroinvertebrate diversity, compared to streams running through recently clear-cut and old forests. This indicates that catchment-scale forest management can modify in-stream habitat conditions with effects on stream macroinvertebrate communities and that characteristics of younger forests may promote conditions that benefit headwater biodiversity.
Project description:Environmental filtering and spatial structuring are important ecological processes for the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. However, the relative importance of these ecological drivers for multiple facets of diversity is still poorly understood in highland streams. Here, we examined the responses of three facets of stream macroinvertebrate alpha diversity to local environmental, landscape-climate and spatial factors in a near-pristine highland riverine ecosystem. Taxonomic (species richness, Shannon diversity, and evenness), functional (functional richness, evenness, divergence, and Rao's Quadratic entropy), and a proxy of phylogenetic alpha diversity (taxonomic distinctness and variation in taxonomic distinctness) were calculated for macroinvertebrate assemblages in 55 stream sites. Then Pearson correlation coefficient was used to explore congruence of indices within and across the three diversity facets. Finally, multiple linear regression models and variation partitioning were employed to identify the relative importance of different ecological drivers of biodiversity. We found most correlations between the diversity indices within the same facet, and between functional richness and species richness were relatively strong. The two phylogenetic diversity indices were quite independent from taxonomic diversity but correlated with functional diversity indices to some extent. Taxonomic and functional diversity were more strongly determined by environmental variables, while phylogenetic diversity was better explained by spatial factors. In terms of environmental variables, habitat-scale variables describing habitat complexity and water physical features played the primary role in determining the diversity patterns of all three facets, whereas landscape factors appeared less influential. Our findings indicated that both environmental and spatial factors are important ecological drivers for biodiversity patterns of macroinvertebrates in Tibetan streams, although their relative importance was contingent on different facets of diversity. Such findings verified the complementary roles of taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity, and highlighted the importance of comprehensively considering multiple ecological drivers for different facets of diversity in biodiversity assessment.
Project description:Deforestation in the tropical Andes is affecting ecological conditions of streams, and determination of how much forest should be retained is a pressing task for conservation, restoration and management strategies. We calculated and analyzed eight benthic metrics (structural, compositional and water quality indices) and a physical-chemical composite index with gradients of vegetation cover to assess the effects of deforestation on macroinvertebrate communities and water quality of 23 streams in southern Ecuadorian Andes. Using a geographical information system (GIS), we quantified vegetation cover at three spatial scales: the entire catchment, the riparian buffer of 30 m width extending the entire stream length, and the local scale defined for a stream reach of 100 m in length and similar buffer width. Macroinvertebrate and water quality metrics had the strongest relationships with vegetation cover at catchment and riparian scales, while vegetation cover did not show any association with the macroinvertebrate metrics at local scale. At catchment scale, the water quality metrics indicate that ecological condition of Andean streams is good when vegetation cover is over 70%. Further, macroinvertebrate community assemblages were more diverse and related in catchments largely covered by native vegetation (>70%). Our results suggest that retaining an important quantity of native vegetation cover within the catchments and a linkage between headwater and riparian forests help to maintain and improve stream biodiversity and water quality in Andean streams affected by deforestation. This research proposes that a strong regulation focused to the management of riparian buffers can be successful when decision making is addressed to conservation/restoration of Andean catchments.
Project description:Riparian reforestation is a common restoration action in urban streams, but relatively little is known about the influence of local riparian vegetation in the face of watershed-scale urban land cover. Allochthonous organic matter and benthic algae are important basal energy resources in streams, but the roles of watershed urbanization vs near-stream vegetation in the availability of these resources are not well understood. Our goal was to understand how the interaction of land cover at 2 spatial scales (watershed vs reach) and seasonal dynamics shape basal resources and their effects on macroinvertebrate communities. We assessed relationships between seasonal patterns in standing stocks of particulate organic matter (POM) and benthic periphyton and macroinvertebrate community composition in openand closed-canopy reaches of 4 urban and 4 reference streams in northern Kentucky, USA. POM standing stocks were not strongly influenced by watershed or riparian condition. Benthic algal biomass was greater in urban than in reference streams in all seasons and in open than in closed riparian canopies in summer when light levels are most affected by a deciduous canopy. Relationships between macroinvertebrate functional feeding group (FFG) biomass and their primary food resources were influenced by watershed land use and season, but riparian canopy effects were minor. The proportion of collectors varied by season, whereas the proportion of shredders was higher in reference than urban streams. Scraper biomass was influenced by benthic algal biomass and varied seasonally, whereas predator biomass was driven by prey-insect biomass. Periphyton density was affected by the interaction of watershedand reach-scale land cover and was the only basal resource strongly related to consumer taxa. Watershed land use influences the stream ecosystem, but local riparian canopy may be important in limiting benthic algal accumulation.
Project description:In a changing climate, Arctic streams are expected to show more influence from snowmelt, rainfall and groundwater, and less domination from glacial meltwater sources. Snowmelt streams are characteristic features of Arctic ecosystems, yet our current understanding of longitudinal patterns in benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in these systems is limited when compared to glacier-fed systems. This study characterised longitudinal patterns of macroinvertebrate communities in snowmelt streams in northeast Greenland to provide novel insights into Arctic stream communities as dominant water sources shift with climate change. Benthic macroinvertebrates and environmental variables were sampled at three sites along five streams. Taxa diversity, evenness and abundance were expected to increase with distance from the stream source due to enhanced channel stability and warmer water temperature. This expectation for diversity and evenness was found in two streams, but abundance was up to ten times higher at the upstream sites compared to downstream, where biofilm biomass and ionic load were also highest. Here communities were largely dominated by the genus Eukiefferiella (Chironomidae). In the other three streams, no clear pattern in longitudinal macroinvertebrate community composition was evident due to low channel stability along the entire stream length. This study highlights the considerable variation in macroinvertebrate zonal distribution between snowmelt streams in northeast Greenland. A change towards more snowmelt-dominated streams in the Arctic could lead to shifts in the longitudinal organisation of macroinvertebrate community assemblages and the dominant species as a function of channel stability characteristics.
Project description:Temporary streams are characterised by short periods of seasonal or annual stream flow after which streams contract into waterholes or pools of varying hydrological connectivity and permanence. Although these streams are widespread globally, temporal variability of their ecology is understudied, and understanding the processes that structure community composition in these systems is vital for predicting and managing the consequences of anthropogenic impacts. We used multivariate and univariate approaches to investigate temporal variability in macroinvertebrate compositional data from 13 years of sampling across multiple sites from autumn and spring, in South Australia, the driest state in the driest inhabited continent in the world. We examined the potential of land-use, geographic and environmental variables to predict the temporal variability in macroinvertebrate assemblages, and also identified indicator taxa, that is, those highly correlated with the most significantly associated physical variables. Temporal trajectories of macroinvertebrate communities varied within site in both seasons and across years. A combination of land-use, geographic and environmental variables accounted for 24% of the variation in community structure in autumn and 27% in spring. In autumn, community composition among sites were more closely clustered together relative to spring suggesting that communities were more similar in autumn than in spring. In both seasons, community structure was most strongly correlated with conductivity and latitude, and community structure was more associated with cover by agriculture than urban land-use. Maintaining temporary streams will require improved catchment management aimed at sustaining seasonal flows and critical refuge habitats, while also limiting the damaging effects from increased agriculture and urban developments.
Project description:We evaluated the restoration of physical habitats and its influence on macroinvertebrate community structure in 18 Danish lowland streams comprising six restored streams, six streams with little physical alteration and six channelized streams. We hypothesized that physical habitats and macroinvertebrate communities of restored streams would resemble those of natural streams, while those of the channelized streams would differ from both restored and near-natural streams. Physical habitats were surveyed for substrate composition, depth, width and current velocity. Macroinvertebrates were sampled along 100 m reaches in each stream, in edge habitats and in riffle/run habitats located in the center of the stream. Restoration significantly altered the physical conditions and affected the interactions between stream habitat heterogeneity and macroinvertebrate diversity. The substrate in the restored streams was dominated by pebble, whereas the substrate in the channelized and natural streams was dominated by sand. In the natural streams a relationship was identified between slope and pebble/gravel coverage, indicating a coupling of energy and substrate characteristics. Such a relationship did not occur in the channelized or in the restored streams where placement of large amounts of pebble/gravel distorted the natural relationship. The analyses revealed, a direct link between substrate heterogeneity and macroinvertebrate diversity in the natural streams. A similar relationship was not found in either the channelized or the restored streams, which we attribute to a de-coupling of the natural relationship between benthic community diversity and physical habitat diversity. Our study results suggest that restoration schemes should aim at restoring the natural physical structural complexity in the streams and at the same time enhance the possibility of re-generating the natural geomorphological processes sustaining the habitats in streams and rivers. Documentation of restoration efforts should be intensified with continuous monitoring of geomorphological and ecological changes including surveys of reference river systems.
Project description:The aim of the present study was to assess the impact of surrounding land use on the structure and functioning of lowland stream ecosystems. To this end, five different land use types were selected (forest, extensive grassland, intensive grassland, cropland and wastewater treatment plant) each represented by four replicate streams, in which diel dissolved oxygen concentrations were recorded, sediment and water quality parameters were measured and macroinvertebrate community composition was determined. Chironomus sp., Oligochaeta and Gastropoda dominated the cropland and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) streams, while Plecoptera and most Trichoptera only occurred in forest and extensive grassland streams. Forest streams communities were related to a high oxygen saturation, a high C/N ratio in the sediment and woody debris and coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) substrate cover. Macroinvertebrate communities in cropland and WWTP streams were related to a low oxygen saturation in water and sediment and high concentrations of dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon. It is concluded that land use specific impacts on lowland streams are likely exerted via fine sediment accumulation in deposition zones, affecting oxygen regimes, sediment oxygen demand and stream metabolism, ultimately changing macroinvertebrate community composition. This study supports therefore the importance of including the catchment scale in ecological stream quality assessments, combining structural and functional endpoints.
Project description:Under the ongoing climate change, understanding the mechanisms structuring the spatial distribution of aquatic species in glacial stream networks is of critical importance to predict the response of aquatic biodiversity in the face of glacier melting. In this study, we propose to use metacommunity theory as a conceptual framework to better understand how river network structure influences the spatial organization of aquatic communities in glacierized catchments. At 51 stream sites in an Andean glacierized catchment (Ecuador), we sampled benthic macroinvertebrates, measured physico-chemical and food resource conditions, and calculated geographical, altitudinal and glaciality distances among all sites. Using partial redundancy analysis, we partitioned community variation to evaluate the relative strength of environmental conditions (e.g., glaciality, food resource) vs. spatial processes (e.g., overland, watercourse, and downstream directional dispersal) in organizing the aquatic metacommunity. Results revealed that both environmental and spatial variables significantly explained community variation among sites. Among all environmental variables, the glacial influence component best explained community variation. Overland spatial variables based on geographical and altitudinal distances significantly affected community variation. Watercourse spatial variables based on glaciality distances had a unique significant effect on community variation. Within alpine catchment, glacial meltwater affects macroinvertebrate metacommunity structure in many ways. Indeed, the harsh environmental conditions characterizing glacial influence not only constitute the primary environmental filter but also, limit water-borne macroinvertebrate dispersal. Therefore, glacier runoff acts as an aquatic dispersal barrier, isolating species in headwater streams, and preventing non-adapted species to colonize throughout the entire stream network. Under a scenario of glacier runoff decrease, we expect a reduction in both environmental filtering and dispersal limitation, inducing a taxonomic homogenization of the aquatic fauna in glacierized catchments as well as the extinction of specialized species in headwater groundwater and glacier-fed streams, and consequently an irreversible reduction in regional diversity.
Project description:Understanding how environmental variables influence the distribution and density of organisms over relatively long temporal scales is a central question in ecology given increased climatic variability (e.g., precipitation, ENSO events). The primary goal of our study was to evaluate long-term (15y time span) patterns of climate, as well as environmental parameters in two Neotropical streams in lowland Costa Rica, to assess potential effects on aquatic macroinvertebrates. We also examined the relative effects of an 8y whole-stream P-enrichment experiment on macroinvertebrate assemblages against the backdrop of this long-term study. Climate, environmental variables and macroinvertebrate samples were measured monthly for 7y and then quarterly for an additional 8y in each stream. Temporal patterns in climatic and environmental variables showed high variability over time, without clear inter-annual or intra-annual patterns. Macroinvertebrate richness and abundance decreased with increasing discharge and was positively related to the number of days since the last high discharge event. Findings show that fluctuations in stream physicochemistry and macroinvertebrate assemblage structure are ultimately the result of large-scale climatic phenomena, such as ENSO events, while the 8y P-enrichment did not appear to affect macroinvertebrates. Our study demonstrates that Neotropical lowland streams are highly dynamic and not as stable as is commonly presumed, with high intra- and inter-annual variability in environmental parameters that change the structure and composition of freshwater macroinvertebrate assemblages.