, Volume 807, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Exploring the effects of salinization on trophic diversity in freshwater ecosystems: a quantitative review

  • Anakena M. Castillo
  • Diana M. T. Sharpe
  • Cameron K. Ghalambor
  • Luis F. De León
Review Paper


Salinization of freshwater ecosystems represents a potential threat to biodiversity, but the distribution of salinity tolerance among freshwater organisms and its functional consequences are understudied. In this study, we reviewed global patterns of salinity tolerance across a broad range of freshwater organisms. Specifically, we compared published data on LC50 (a metric of salinity tolerance) across climatic regions, taxa, and functional feeding groups (FFGs). We found that microinvertebrates were more sensitive to salinity than vertebrates and macroinvertebrates. Within aquatic insects, there was considerable variability in tolerance across FFGs. Specifically, scrapers, gatherers, and filterers were more sensitive on average than omnivores, shredders, and predators. Thus, we predict that increasing salinization can negatively impact trophic diversity and in turn cause overall changes in the structure and function of freshwater ecosystems. We also identified both historical exposure and taxonomic affinity as potential drivers of contemporary salinity tolerance across freshwater organisms. Finally, we found important gaps in our understanding of the potential impacts of salinization on freshwater biodiversity, particularly in regions expected to be affected by increased salinization due to climate change and secondary salinization. Understanding the differential vulnerability of freshwater taxa is critical to predicting the ecosystem impacts of salinization, and informing conservation and management decisions.


Climate change Biodiversity Functional diversity Human disturbances Macroinvertebrates Salinity tolerance 



Financial support was provided by the Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENACYT, Panamá) in the form of a doctoral fellowship to AMC and a research grant (No. ITE12-002) to LFD. CKG was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (IOS-1457383). Additional support was provided by Instituto para la Formación y Aprovechamiento de los Recursos Humanos in the form of a doctoral fellowship to AMC, and by Sistema Nacional de Investigación (SNI, Panamá) to DMTS and LFD. DMTS was also supported by a postdoctoral fellowships from the Fonds Recherche Nature et Technologies Quebec (FQRNT). Finally, the authors thank two anonymous reviewers and editor Eric R. Larson for their comments and suggestions that helped improve an earlier version of the manuscript.

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Biodiversidad y Descubrimiento de Drogas, Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Servicios de Alta Tecnología (INDICASAT-AIP)Panamá 5República de Panamá
  2. 2.Department of BiotechnologyAcharya Nagarjuna UniversityGunturIndia
  3. 3.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Department of BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

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