Effects of environmental factors and predation on benthic communities in headwater streams
Structure and composition of benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages were investigated during three consecutive years in six headwater streams that exhibit a high variation in environmental conditions, habitat structure and predatory pressure. We examined whether the abundance of functional feeding groups could be best predicted by the abundance of predators and some habitat and chemical variables. Mean density and biomass of macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups varied significantly throughout the study area. Stepwise multiple regression analyses revealed that both density and biomass of functional feeding groups was influenced primarily by chemical features of water. Shredder biomass and scraper density were also influenced by habitat features, the abundance of scrapers increasing in deeper localities at lower altitudes and with abundant macrophytes. The abundance of predatory invertebrates was related to the density and biomass of benthic prey. An influence of fish predation on invertebrate communities was not observed in the study streams. The finding that benthic communities in undisturbed headwater streams are mainly affected by water chemistry variables irrespective of fish predation and habitat features clearly highlight the sensitivity of functional feeding groups to changes in chemical features and their role as indicators for bioassessment.
KeywordsMacroinvertebrates Community structure Upland streams Fish predation Water quality Microhabitat
This study was supported by the Spanish National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) through research projects SC-9645 and SC-95/005. All field procedures complied with the current laws of Spain.
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