Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 194, Issue 1–4, pp 91–110 | Cite as

Assessing Urban Impacts on Water Quality, Benthic Communities and Fish in Streams of the Andes Mountains, Patagonia (Argentina)

  • M. L. MiserendinoEmail author
  • C. Brand
  • C. Y. Di Prinzio


Communities of aquatic macroinvertebrates, fish density and biomass, and environmental variables were investigated in three Patagonian mountain rivers affected by urbanization. The rivers Las Minas, Esquel and Carbón that flow through the towns of Cholila, Esquel and Corcovado, respectively (northwest Chubut, Argentina) were selected to assess the degree of impairment. A reference site and an urban site were established on each river. Water quality variables including conductivity, major nutrients, total suspended solids (TSS) and dissolved oxygen, habitat conditions and quality of riparian ecosystems were investigated in autumn, winter, spring and summer 2005–2006. Macroinvertebrates were sampled concurrently in three riffles and three pools at each site. Invertebrate species richness, EPT richness, the Shannon–Weaver diversity index, % EPT density, and the BMPS index were lower at urban sites, whereas % collectors increased. The most impaired site was below Esquel, the largest town. Senzilloides panguipulli (Plecoptera), Polypedilum and Rheotanytarsus species (Diptera: Chironomidae), Nais communis (Oligochaeta) and Meridialaris chiloeensis (Ephemeroptera) dominated assemblages at reference and moderately impaired sites in summer, whereas the strongly polluted reach below Esquel had low flow in summer and a community dominated by Limnodrilus spp. (Oligochaeta), Helobdella spp. (Hirudinea), and two Hyallela species (Amphipoda). Canonical correspondence analysis indicated that ammonia, conductivity and TSS were important variables structuring invertebrate assemblages. In contrast, fish density and biomass varied in a non-systematic manner among sites. Overall, urbanization resulted in varying degrees of habitat degradation, sedimentation and nutrient enrichment that were reflected by the macroinvertebrate assemblages, which can be used effectively to monitor the effects of urban communities on Patagonian mountain streams.


Environmental relationships Invertebrates Nutrients Pollution Rivers 



This study was supported by CONICET (PIP 5733) and Project A.W.A.R.E. Foundation (P-001036) and PADI Foundation (19/2006). Special thanks to Carolina Masi and Ricardo Casaux for fieldtrip assistance. We wish to thank Mike Winterbourn for thoughtful reviews of the manuscript and for constructive suggestions for its improvement. Thanks to anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that greatly improved the manuscript. This is Scientific Contribution n° 31 from LIESA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. L. Miserendino
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Brand
    • 1
  • C. Y. Di Prinzio
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Investigaciones en Ecología y Sistemática Animal (LIESA)Universidad Nacional de la PatagoniaEsquelArgentina

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