, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp 3095-3109
Date: 17 Mar 2007

The importance of water-level fluctuation for the conservation of shallow water benthic macroinvertebrates: an example in the Andean zone of Chile

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Abstract

Many researchers have shown the importance of water chemistry and benthic habitat characteristics for the conservation of the freshwater macroinvertebrate biodiversity. However, few authors have examined the physical effect of extreme water-level fluctuations in lakes. The present study set out to determine, through a comparative study between a regulated lake (Laja Lake, LL) and an unregulated lake (Icalma Lake, IL) of the Andean zone of southern Chile, how man-made disturbances of the natural hydrological regime affect the structure of the benthic macroinvertebrate community. The results showed LL had very low values for species richness, density and biomass in comparison with IL, and the community was composed mainly of few individuals belonging to opportunistic taxa such as Chironomidae and Naididae. We suggest that the low values in the regulated lake are potentially explained by littoral zone factors driven by the water-level fluctuations such as: desiccation, freezing of the biota, removal of organic particles from the sediment and absence of aquatic macrophytes.