Interannual Variation of Benthic Macroinvertebrate Communities at Long-Term Monitoring Sites Impacted by Human Activities: Implications for Bioassessment
Diversity , Volume 11; doi:10.3390/d11090167
Abstract: Bioassessment assumes that ecological conditions remain stable in the absence of environmental changes. Evidence suggests this assumption may hold for reference streams, but knowledge gaps remain for impacted streams. Our study quantified interannual variation of benthic macroinvertebrate communities, monitored for at least 14 years in eight impacted streams in the Upper Thames River watershed in Ontario, Canada. Benthic communities exhibited moderate interannual variation in relative abundance of EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera) and Chironomidae taxa. Year-to-year changes were reflected in lower community persistence than that observed in studies of reference streams. In contrast, tolerance-based metrics showed minimal interannual variation, suggesting compositional changes were because of taxonomic substitutions, in which one tolerant taxon replaced another. Analyses indicated limited directionality in temporal variation for most bioassessment metrics. An exception was taxa richness, which increased at most sites, possibly because of changes in subsampling. However, no associations between calculated bioassessment metrics and measured environmental factors (stream flow and water chemistry) or sampling procedures were observed. We conclude interannual variation in ecological conditions can be substantial and may not be associated with deterministic factors routinely measured in stream assessments. We recommend increased sampling frequency and traits-based assessment as options for limiting effects of interannual variation on assessment results.
Keywords: bioassessment / community composition / water chemistry / Long-term monitoring / benthic macroinvertebrates / stream flow / Interannual Variation / Impacted Streams
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