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Temporal thermal refugia and seasonal variation in upper thermal limits of two species of riverine invertebrates: the amphipod, Paramelita nigroculus, and the mayfly, Lestagella penicillata

Abstract

Understanding the response of aquatic organisms to elevated water temperatures offers insight into the ecological consequences of climate change on riverine species. Upper thermal limits were determined for two riverine invertebrates, the amphipod Paramelita nigroculus (Paramelitidae) and the mayfly Lestagella penicillata (Teloganodidae), in two rivers in the south-western Cape, South Africa. Limits were estimated using the critical thermal method (reflected as the critical thermal maxima—CTmax) and the incipient lethal temperature method (reflected as the incipient lethal upper limit—ILUT). Thermal signatures of these rivers were characterized using hourly water temperatures. CTmax for seasonally acclimatized and laboratory-acclimated P. nigroculus varied significantly amongst months and acclimation temperature. CTmax for seasonally acclimatized L. penicillata varied significantly amongst months, but not with acclimation temperature. 96-h ILUT values for seasonally acclimatized individuals varied significantly amongst months for both species. CTmax values, 96-h ILUT and Maximum Weekly Allowable Temperature thresholds were lower for P. nigroculus compared to L. penicillata. Seven-day moving averages of daily mean and maximum water temperatures were significantly correlated with upper thermal limits for seasonally acclimatized L. penicillata but not P. nigroculus. The proportion of time within a 24-h period that chronic thermal stress thresholds are not exceeded provides a measure of monthly or seasonal chronic thermal stress, and reflects the quantity of temporal thermal refugia for vulnerable organisms. Further testing of these relationships for other species, rivers and regions is recommended, to evaluate the potential for stream temperature averaging statistics to serve as proxies for biological thresholds.

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Acknowledgements

The Water Research Commission of South Africa provided funding for this research (project K5/2182)—thanks to Mr Bonani Madikizela for facilitation of this research and Mrs Una Wium for administrative support. Thanks to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens for allowing access to the study sites, and the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, for providing laboratory facilities. Jody-Lee Reizenberg assisted with the thermal experiments whilst an intern for the Freshwater Research Centre. Reviewers are sincerely thanked for their time and constructive comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Helen F. Dallas.

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Appendix

See Table 5.

Table 5 Metrics for describing water temperature regime alteration (Annual descriptive statistics, Groups 1, 2 and 3 from Rivers-Moore et al. 2012, 2013a)

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Dallas, H.F., Rivers-Moore, N.A. Temporal thermal refugia and seasonal variation in upper thermal limits of two species of riverine invertebrates: the amphipod, Paramelita nigroculus, and the mayfly, Lestagella penicillata. Aquat Ecol 52, 333–349 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10452-018-9667-2

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Keywords

  • Acclimation
  • Acclimatization
  • Chronic stress
  • Climate change
  • Critical thermal maxima
  • Heat tolerance
  • Incipient lethal limit
  • Vulnerability
  • Water temperature criteria