, Volume 597, Issue 1, pp 29–41 | Cite as

Macroinvertebrate assemblages in 25 high alpine ponds of the Swiss National Park (Cirque of Macun) and relation to environmental variables

  • Beat OertliEmail author
  • Nicola Indermuehle
  • Sandrine Angélibert
  • Hélène Hinden
  • Aurélien Stoll


High-altitude freshwater ecosystems and their biocoenosis are ideal sentinel systems to detect global change. In particular, pond communities are likely to be highly responsive to climate warming. For this reason, the Swiss National Park has included ponds as part of a long-term monitoring programme of the high-alpine Macun cirque. This cirque covers 3.6 km2, has a mean altitude of 2,660 m a.s.l., and includes a hydrographic system composed of a stream network and more than 35 temporary and permanent ponds. The first two steps in the programme were to (i) make an inventory of the macroinvertebrates of the waterbodies in the Macun cirque, and (ii) relate the assemblages to local or regional environmental variables. Sampling was conducted in 25 ponds between 2002 and 2004. The number of taxa characterising the region (Macun cirque) was low, represented by 47 lentic taxa. None of them was endemic to the Alps, although several species were cold stenothermal. Average pond richness was low (11.3 taxa). Assemblages were dominated by Chironomidae (Diptera), and Coleoptera and Oligochaeta were also relatively well represented. Other groups, which are frequent in lowland ponds, had particularly poor species richness (Trichoptera, Heteroptera) or were absent (Gastropoda, Odonata, Ephemeroptera). Macroinvertebrate assemblages (composition, richness) were only weakly influenced by local environmental variables. The main structuring processes were those operating at regional level and, namely, the connectivity between ponds, i.e. the presence of a physical connection (tributary) and/or small geographical distance between ponds. The results suggest that during the long-term monitoring of the Macun ponds (started in 2005), two kinds of change will affect macroinvertebrate assemblages. The first change is related to the natural dynamics, with high local-scale turnover, involving the metapopulations characterising the Macun cirque. The second change is related to global warming, leading to higher local and regional richness through an increase in the number of colonisation events resulting from the upward shift of geographical ranges of species. At the same time the cold stenothermal species from Macun will be subject to extinction.


Zoobenthos Small waterbodies Biodiversity Swiss Alps Biomonitoring 



This work was partly supported by the Research Committee from the Swiss National Park. Thanks to Thomas Scheurer and Flurin Filli for logistic support and to everyone who helped in the field—Nathalie Menetrey, Lionel Sager, Zoé Fleury and Marianna Massa. Special thanks to Chris Robinson for his helpful collaboration and also for his constructive review of the manuscript. A large part of the chemical analyses were realised by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. We are very grateful to the CSCF for access to the Swiss databanks on fauna. Help in identification was provided by Gilles Carron (Coleoptera), Brigitte Lods-Crozet (Chironomidae), Narcisse Giani (Oligochaeta), Verena Lubini (Trichoptera) and Nigel Thew (Sphaeriidae). Also, Jane O’Rourke and Mericia Whitfield are thanked for improving the English style. The constructive comments of two anonymous referees improved the paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beat Oertli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nicola Indermuehle
    • 1
  • Sandrine Angélibert
    • 1
  • Hélène Hinden
    • 2
  • Aurélien Stoll
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nature ManagementUniversity of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland - EILJussy, GenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratoire d’Ecologie et de Biologie aquatiqueUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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