, Volume 474, Issue 1-3, pp 239-251

Habitat characteristics and macroinvertebrate assemblages in boreal forest streams: relations to catchment silvicultural activities

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Abstract

We compared the stream habitat characteristics and macroinvertebrate assemblages of boreal headwater streams in both the Finnish and the Russian parts of a single river basin, the Koitajoki River. Over the last 50 years, the Finnish side of the catchment has been managed using modern forestry techniques, whereas Russian side has remained nearly unexploited and is near to its natural state. Differences in silvicultural activities were observed to contribute to differences in habitat structure. The channel habitats were in fairly natural state in the Russian reference streams, whereas the impacted Finnish sites were cleared and straightened. In comparison with the impacted channels, the abundance of coarse woody debris (CWD) was 10–100-fold higher in the reference streams. Implications on the forestry-induced deterioration of water quality were also observed. On the contrary, only small differences in macroinvertebrate assemblages were detected. Despite the lower amount of retentive structures (CWD), significantly higher relative abundance of shredders was observed in the forestry-impacted streams. Otherwise the zoobenthic communities were quite similar in the two subcatchments. We suggest that several mechanisms may explain this similarity: (1) community structure is controlled by naturally acidic conditions, (2) the adverse impacts of forestry on habitat structure and water quality of streams may be compensated by increased input of deciduous litter and organic compounds from drained, structurally young riparian forests and (3) macroinvertebrate species have flexible feeding habits and may thus readily adapt to changing conditions.