Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 1465–1480 | Cite as

Variability in the response of amphipods and macroinvertebrate assemblage structure to prolonged drought in forested upland streams

  • Samantha J. ImbergerEmail author
  • Christopher J. Walsh
  • Edward Tsyrlin
  • David G. Kerr
  • Monica Tewman
Original Paper


With climate change set to increase the frequency and severity of drought in many parts of the world, there is a need to better understand the effects of drying on stream ecosystems. We investigated the long-term effects of drought on two amphipod taxa Paramoera fontana (Pontogeneiidae) and Austrogammarus australis (Paramelitidae) and macroinvertebrate assemblage structure through an analysis of 13 years of data collected from four forested stream reaches (Victoria, Australia). Abundances of A. australis and P. fontana in the lower reach of Lyrebird Creek declined to zero following surficial streambed drying. Similar declines in abundances were not observed in Sassafras Creek or the two headwater springs, which continued to flow throughout the drought. P. fontana was detected again in the lower reach of Lyrebird Creek 12 months after the final cease-to-flow, however A. australis remained undetected 5 years later, despite an upstream source population within 2 km. Both the entire and shredder macroinvertebrate assemblage structure in Sassafras Creek and the lower reach of Lyrebird Creek shifted significantly pre- and post-surficial streambed drying in the lower reach of Lyrebird Creek. Despite signs of recovery following a return to more average flows, assemblage composition remained considerably different. The substantial differences in the recovery of the two species indicates varying resistance and resilience traits. The failure of A. australis to recolonize after 5 years indicates an absence of any significant resistance or resilience traits. In contrast, the rapid re-colonization of P. fontana may indicate poor resistance traits, but strong resilience traits. The sensitivity of A. australis to cease-to-flow events points to the need to carefully manage water extraction to protect this threatened species. The effective management of macroinvertebrate assemblages in the face of drought requires a clear understanding of their response to drying, the conservation of refugia and the minimization of additional stressors which reduce ecosystem resilience.


Resistance Resilience Threatened species Long-term recovery lag Freshwater Lotic 



This work was supported in part by the Melbourne Waterway Research-Practice Partnership and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Program (LP0883610 and LP130100295). We thank Chris Szota, Joe Greet and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha J. Imberger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher J. Walsh
    • 1
  • Edward Tsyrlin
    • 2
  • David G. Kerr
    • 3
  • Monica Tewman
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Ecosystem and Forest SciencesThe University of MelbourneBurnleyAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne WaterDocklandsAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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