Macroinvertebrate diversity in fragmented Alpine streams: implications for freshwater conservation
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Lakes and reservoirs disrupt the longitudinal connectivity of streams, considerably affecting benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages and diversity. Changes in assemblage composition within fragments can result from habitat alteration and reduced dispersal between fragments. We investigated the effects of habitat fragmentation in 10 Alpine streams, examining 69 taxa of benthic macroinvertebrates from 22 sites in fragmented and freeflowing streams. Total taxon richness (α-diversity) ranged from 6 to 27 in individual sites, and total richness was not significantly affected by fragmentation. However, Ephemeroptera and Diptera (excluding Simuliidae) richness was significantly reduced in stream fragments. Beta-diversity indicated a high degree of taxon turnover among sites within streams, but was not significantly different between fragmented and unfragmented streams. Characterizing the biological, physiological, and ecological traits of Ephemeroptera showed that communities in reservoir-fragmented streams had a higher affinity for fine sediments, increased temperatures, and reduced current velocity. Taxon assemblages in fragments were not nested subsets of unfragmented site assemblages. Thus, species turnover and species replacement in fragments is common, suggesting that most taxa are able to freely disperse among fragments. We suggest that habitat alteration was the primary cause of changes in assemblage structure in these streams. Consequently, habitat-based conservation is likely to be successful in maintaining populations of all but the weakest dispersers.
Key words.Biodiversity dispersal Ephemeroptera habitat fragmentation nestedness aquatic insects species traits
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