, Volume 551, Issue 1, pp 171-182

Functional Differences Among Benthic Macroinvertebrate Communities in Reference Streams of Same Order in a Given Biogeographic Area

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Ecological theory (Southwood, 1977. Journal of Animal Ecology 46: 337–365, 1988. Oikos 52: 3–18; Townsend, 1989. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 8: 36–50; Townsend & Hildrew, 1994. Freshwater Biology 31: 265–275) considers that spatio-temporal variations in habitats act as evolutionary forces on organisms, selecting for traits that maximize fitness. As a consequence, communities developed under same environmental conditions should present the same combination of species bio-ecological characteristics. The objective was to verify, using data from the same biogeographical zone, (1) if there was a unique suite of bio-ecological profiles for reference macrobenthic communities of `comparable' rivers or (2) if the distribution of bio-ecological traits within reference communities was significantly influenced by geology. The variability of 22 bio-ecological traits in 12 different sites was tested to evaluate the potential influence of geological substrate on biological and ecological features of reference stream communities. Observed patterns suggested that communities displayed highly stable bio-ecological profiles among sites (within a given biogeographical zone) whatever the substrate was, even if communities on clayey substrate exhibited slightly different bio/ecological characteristics than on others geologies. Nevertheless, the functional structure of macrobenthic communities in reference sites was quite stable in this biogeographical area. This study was restricted to the selected stream types and its results may not directly be transferred to other biogeographical areas and stream types. However, the perspective of a unique functional reference for streams of the same order in a given biogeographical area, improve functional comparison between observed vs. reference communities. This could simplify and objectively define the ecological status of a given site.