Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 291–301 | Cite as

Invertebrate assemblage responses and the dual roles of resistance and resilience to drying in intermittent rivers

  • Catherine LeighEmail author
  • Núria Bonada
  • Andrew J. Boulton
  • Bernard Hugueny
  • Scott T. Larned
  • Ross Vander Vorste
  • Thibault Datry
Research Article


Intermittent rivers are naturally dynamic ecosystems in which flow cessation and riverbed drying cause temporal fluctuations in aquatic biodiversity. We analysed datasets from intermittent rivers in different climate zones across the world to examine responses of aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages to drying, in relation to both taxonomic composition and traits of resistance and resilience. First, we compared the differences in taxonomic richness and turnover and in trait diversity, richness and redundancy before and after intermittent sites dried with the differences in concurrently sampled perennial sites. We found such high levels of variation in the before-after differences at intermittent and perennial sites that we could not detect statistical differences between them. Second, we examined the effects of climate (arid, Mediterranean, temperate) and durations of dry and post-dry (flowing) periods on responses to drying at intermittent sites. Only climate had a detectable effect; the proportion of taxa at intermittent sites that persisted through drying-rewetting phases was greatest in arid-zone rivers. Regardless of climate, the invertebrates that persisted at intermittent sites were dominated by taxa resistant to drying. By contrast, taxa that persisted at perennial sites had fewer traits conferring resistance but more conferring resilience. The contributions of resistance and resilience combined with the presence of both intermittent and perennial reaches likely supports the long-term stability and persistence of communities in intermittent rivers, despite the inherently high variation in short-term responses to drying.


Climate Disturbance Invertebrate community Traits Persistence Temporary river 



We thank Vicenç Acuña, Michael Bogan, Nancy Grimm, Rachel Stubbington, Paul Wood and their research teams for supplying data and answering our many questions; Rob Rolls for discussions on statistical analyses; and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions which improved the manuscript. Data from Lebanon and Spain were originally provided to NB for a project supported by the ‘Secretaría de Estado de Educación y Universidades’ (Spain) and co-funded by the European Social Fund (see Bonada et al. 2007; Statzner et al. 2007). CL was funded by IRBAS (Intermittent River Biodiversity Analysis and Synthesis working group;, led by TD and supported by the Centre for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB), and funded jointly by the French Foundation for Research and Biodiversity (FRB) and the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (ONEMA). CL, NB, AB, BH, SL and TD are IRBAS participants. RV was funded by IRSTEA.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Leigh
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Núria Bonada
    • 3
  • Andrew J. Boulton
    • 4
  • Bernard Hugueny
    • 5
  • Scott T. Larned
    • 6
  • Ross Vander Vorste
    • 1
  • Thibault Datry
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Irstea, UR MALY, Centre de Lyon-VilleurbanneVilleurbanne CedexFrance
  2. 2.CESAB-RB Immeuble Henri PoincaréAix-en-Provence Cedex 3France
  3. 3.Grup de Recerca Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM), Departament d’Ecologia, Facultat de BiologiaUniversitat de Barcelona (UB)BarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural ScienceUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  5. 5.UMR ‘‘BOREA’’ CNRS 7208/IRD 207/MNHN/UPMC, DMPA, Museum National d’Histoire NaturelleParis CedexFrance
  6. 6.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric ResearchChristchurchNew Zealand

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