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Spatial and seasonal variation of peatland-fed riverine macroinvertebrate and benthic diatom assemblages and implications for assessment: a case study from Ireland

Abstract

Blanket peat catchments are important biodiversity refugia. Key pressures on peatland catchment water bodies include artificial drainage, forestry, over-grazing, wind farm development and climate change, and assessment of these pressures requires sensitive monitoring programmes. This study, undertaken in two neighbouring blanket peat catchments, examined the variability in macroinvertebrate and diatom assemblages and related indices in response to spatial and seasonal variability. Multivariate analysis revealed significant trends in the taxa distribution of both groups and the indices downstream and away from the constraining influence of the peat. However, the ecological quality ratios and status assessments for the associated water bodies were consistent irrespective of spatial variability in assemblages and raw indices. Significant seasonal trends emerged only in the macroinvertebrate assemblages and indices. This study contributes to the understanding of sources of uncertainty in ecological assessment and thus provides valuable information for the calibration of assessment protocols for sensitive peatland catchments.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Research Stimulus Fund (RSF), financed by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2007–2013. The authors wish to acknowledge the input of Coillte in allowing access to state forestry for this project. The authors gratefully acknowledge the help and support from the, Marine Institute, and the EPA, and Coillte. Sincere thanks are also given to Bryan Kennedy, Mary Dillane, Cian O’Driscoll and Tom Reed. The comments made by anonymous reviewers are very much appreciated.

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O’Driscoll, C., de Eyto, E., Rodgers, M. et al. Spatial and seasonal variation of peatland-fed riverine macroinvertebrate and benthic diatom assemblages and implications for assessment: a case study from Ireland. Hydrobiologia 728, 67–87 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-014-1807-7

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Keywords

  • Peatland catchments
  • Diatoms
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Variation
  • WFD