Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 975–993 | Cite as

Exploring stream communities in a tropical biodiversity hotspot: biodiversity, regional occupancy, niche characteristics and environmental correlates

  • Jonathan D. TonkinEmail author
  • Francis O. Arimoro
  • Peter Haase
Original Paper


Exploring and describing biodiversity and the mechanisms structuring it is fundamental to advancing ecology. This is particularly pertinent in understudied biogeographical regions, such as the Afrotropics, that are characterised by strong seasonal climatic shifts. We investigated the characteristics of stream biodiversity in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, a tropical biodiversity hotspot, by examining patterns in 20 stream invertebrate communities across both the wet and dry seasons. For this, we took a multi-faceted approach accounting for the three levels of biodiversity (α, β and γ), including partitioning the nestedness and turnover components of β diversity, regional occupancy-abundance patterns, niche characteristics, and the environmental drivers of community structure. α diversity was low in these streams, with strong turnover between sites leading to high β diversity contributing to regional biodiversity, but there was little variation in communities between seasons. The proportion of sites occupied by taxa declined with increasing niche position, and decreasing niche breadth. Occupancy was predicted well by a combination of these two factors (niche position and breadth), but not mean local abundance, as the abundance-occupancy link was an upper-limit unimodal relationship. On average, community structure was linked more strongly to environmental variables in the wet season. Our findings demonstrate the clear role of spatial, but not temporal, turnover in assemblages, which likely reflects the environmental heterogeneity of this region. This is further supported by the fact that regional occupancy was mostly related to niche characteristics, particularly niche position. We emphasise the importance of continued basic and applied ecological work in this important biogeographic region to enable better protection of its biodiversity.


Occupancy-abundance Occupancy-frequency Niche breadth Niche position Nigeria Lotic Benthic invertebrates 



We thank the help of two anonymous reviewers that improved an earlier version of this manuscript. Drs. F. de Moor and H. James of Albany Museum, Grahamstown, South Africa helped in the identification of most macroinvertebrate taxa, especially Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera and Coleoptera. Deep Narayan Shah kindly assisted with GIS analyses. TWAS-DFG Sponsorship Programme for collaboration study of FOA in Germany is highly appreciated. PH acknowledges funding from the DFG (HA 3431/6-1).

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1101_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (468 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 469 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan D. Tonkin
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Francis O. Arimoro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter Haase
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of River Ecology and ConservationSenckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum FrankfurtGelnhausenGermany
  2. 2.Applied Hydrobiology Unit, Department of Biological SciencesFederal University of TechnologyMinnaNigeria
  3. 3.Department of River and Floodplain Ecology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Integrative BiologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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