, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 767-783

Macroinvertebrate community loss as a result of headwater stream acidification in the Vosges Mountains (N-E France)

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Abstract

The relationships between water chemistry and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities of 41 headwater streams were studied in the Vosges Mountains (N-E of France) in an attempt to assess the impact of acidification on macroinvertebrate diversity. The taxa richness of macroinvertebrates decreased drastically in headwater streams which were characterized by low pH, low calcium and high aluminum content. All taxonomic groups were affected, but Molluscans, Crustaceans and Ephemeroptera disappeared totally from strongly acidified streams. Simple indices based on taxa richness such as the coefficient of community loss may provide accurate tools to quickly assess the impact of acidification on macroinvertebrate communities. Despite the reduction of atmospheric SO2 emissions, acidification of freshwater in the Vosges Mountains continues to affect streams which were believed in the past to constitute refuge biotopes for numerous species. Consequently, acidification represents a real threat for numerous invertebrates. This study arises the question of the evolution in the future of headwater stream ecosystems. Urgent decisions and interventions are required to preserve non-acidified streams and to restore impacted ecosystems while awaiting spontaneous recovery.