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Effect of Multiple Stressors on Water Quality and Macroinvertebrate Assemblages in an Effluent-Dominated Stream


Lura stream flows in the populated and industrialized conurbation North of Milan, Italy. The area suffers a sprawling urbanization which is leading to major alterations in water quality, hydrology and morphology of streams. These water bodies are known as effluent-dominated streams, because most of the baseflow is given by Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) discharges. In this paper, a 5 year long assessment of Lura stream is presented and the collected data is discussed to understand overall ecological quality. Multivariate analysis carried out on macroinvertebrate assemblages and environmental variables suggests that invertebrate communities suffer severe alteration both upstream and downstream WWTP discharges. Results indicate that the high polluting loads coming from WWTP discharges affect seriously the stream water quality, but the most important cause of impairment are pulse perturbations related to the modified hydrology, causing droughts and flash floods, and to the spills of untreated sewage from overflows during rain events.

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This research was funded by CARIPLO Foundation and Lura Ambiente Spa. Many thanks to Mara Brambilla, Raffaele Golinelli, Matteo Errigo, Marco Bassanese for assistance in the field. Weather data was supplied by Gaetano Finocchiaro, Minoprio School Foundation and Giovanni Tesauro. We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions: they strongly increased paper quality.

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Correspondence to Sergio Canobbio.

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Canobbio, S., Mezzanotte, V., Sanfilippo, U. et al. Effect of Multiple Stressors on Water Quality and Macroinvertebrate Assemblages in an Effluent-Dominated Stream. Water Air Soil Pollut 198, 359–371 (2009).

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  • Benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Droughts
  • Floods
  • Pollution
  • Urban streams
  • Wastewater treatment plant effluents