Aquatic Sciences

, 81:32 | Cite as

If Alpine streams run dry: the drought memory of benthic communities

  • Elena PianoEmail author
  • Alberto Doretto
  • Elisa Falasco
  • Stefano Fenoglio
  • Laura Gruppuso
  • Daniele Nizzoli
  • Pierluigi Viaroli
  • Francesca Bona
Research Article


Several mountain streams are currently changing from perennial to temporary regimes due to increasing water abstraction and global climate change with expected detrimental effects on stream biodiversity and functionality. We here examined whether macroinvertebrates and diatoms, experiencing recurring non-flow periods, showed alterations even after complete flow resumption in 13 mountain streams in SW Italian Alps. Benthic communities were sampled after complete flow resumption in April 2017 in a control section, with permanent flow, and in an intermittent section, which experiences recurrent non-flow periods during summer, in each stream. We tested for differences in terms of taxonomic composition, diversity and functional groups between permanent and temporary sections. Our results showed a significant alteration of benthic invertebrate, but not diatom communities in temporary sections. Different species composition and low diversity values in temporary sections were due to the replacement of monovoltine taxa, with aquatic respiration, preferring medium to fast flowing, oligotrophic waters by plurivoltine taxa, with aerial respiration preferring lentic habitats. Such results provide some insights into the mechanisms by which non-flow periods impact Alpine streams, and further investigations in mountain areas are required in the future to better unravel the repercussions on stream ecosystem processes.


Diatoms Macroinvertebrates Hydrological intermittency Functional traits 



The authors wish to thank M. Apostolo, R. Bolpagni, M. C. Bruno, G. Burgazzi, C. Garetto, A. Laini, D. Melchio, D. Morandini and B. Palmia for their assistance and contribution during the field and laboratory activities. Marco Baltieri (Associazione Tutela Ambienti Acquatici e Ittiofauna) is greatly acknowledged for his help in the identification of temporary sampling stretches. This work was realized within the framework of the PRIN NOACQUA “Risposte di comuNità e processi ecOsistemici in corsi d’ACQUA soggetti a intermittenza idrologica” - code 2O1572HW8F, funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. This research is original and has a financial support of the Università del Piemonte Orientale.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DISITUniversity of Piemonte OrientaleAlessandriaItaly
  2. 2.DBIOSUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental SustainabilityUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly

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