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Aquatic biodiversity loss in Andean urban streams


Andean rivers support an amazing biodiversity and provide important environmental services for Andean landscapes like water for agriculture and human consumption. Urban areas in Andean countries have grown at an accelerated rate in the last decades. As a consequence, a lack of wastewater treatment and riparian preservation have threatened these streams. We studied urban, agricultural, and well-preserved streams in the Upper Guayllabamba River Basin, where Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is located. We found an aquatic insect richness loss of 78% in urban impacted streams. Urbanization extent within a watershed was strongly related to pollution and water quality decline, and aquatic insect community composition shifts to less diverse assemblages. Urban streams in Quito have lost most of their biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, they are important green areas for citizens and deserve better attention. Well-preserved streams in the area need protection since they host a rich biodiversity that we are starting to describe.

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We are grateful with Francis Baquero who helped with the geographical analysis. Special thanks to Xavier Amigo and Nature Experience for its invaluable service during the sampling campaign. This manuscript was greatly improved by the comments and suggestions of 2 anonymous reviewers.


This work was supported by the Universidad de las Americas, Quito-Ecuador Projects AMB·BRT.17.01 and AMB.BRT.21.01, and was presented at the 5th Symposium of Urbanization and Stream Ecology thanks to a stipend from the US National Science Foundation Grant (award #2012128).

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Conceptualization: Blanca Ríos-Touma, Laura Guerrero-Latorre; Methodology: Blanca Ríos-Touma, Laura Guerrero-Latorre., Christian Villamarín, Gabriela Jijón, Genoveva Albuja-Granda, Jackie Checa, Edison Bonifaz; Formal analysis and investigation: Blanca Ríos-Touma, Laura Guerrero-Latorre, Gabriela Jijón, Genoveva Albuja-Granda, Jackie Checa, Edison Bonifaz; Writing—original draft preparation: Blanca Ríos-Touma; Writing—review and editing: Blanca Ríos-Touma, Christian Villamarín, Gabriela Jijón; Funding acquisition: Blanca Ríos-Touma, Laura Guerrero-Latorre; Supervision: Blanca Ríos-Touma, Laura Guerrero-Latorre.

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Correspondence to Blanca Ríos-Touma.

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002–2017-IC-FLO-FAU-DPAP-MA issued by the Environmental Ministry of Ecuador.

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Ríos-Touma, B., Villamarín, C., Jijón, G. et al. Aquatic biodiversity loss in Andean urban streams. Urban Ecosyst (2022).

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  • Urbanization
  • Andean streams
  • Aquatic insects
  • Biodiversity declines