Stream invertebrate diversity reduces with invasion of river banks by non-native plants



Seeney A, Pattison Z, Willby NJ, Boon PJ & Bull CD (2019) Stream invertebrate diversity reduces with invasion of river banks by non-native plants. Freshwater Biology, 64 (3), pp. 485-496.

1. Invasion of riparian zones by non-native plants is a global issue and commonly perceived as a challenge for river and fishery managers, but the type and extent of ecological changes induced by such invasions remain poorly understood. Established effects on sediment delivery, allochthonous inputs and channel shading could potentially alter aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages, with implications for in-stream ecological quality. 2. We assessed responses in the diversity, quality and heterogeneity of stream macroinvertebrate communities to riparian invasion by non-native plants. Macroinvertebrates were collected from 24 sites on low order streams in central and southern Scotland during spring and autumn. The effect of invasive non-native plants (INNP) on macroinvertebrates was assessed relative to that of local physical and chemical factors. 3. INNP cover was associated with stronger effects than other factors on local diversity of macroinvertebrates (33% reduction at the highest INNP cover) but also increased macroinvertebrate abundance across sites. Invaded sites were also associated with lower macroinvertebrate biomonitoring scores. Community composition differed between invaded and uninvaded sites in autumn, but not in spring. However, INNP influence on macroinvertebrate composition was generally secondary to that of physicochemical variables (e.g. channel shade, substrate diversity). 4. We demonstrate that the influence of INNP extends beyond well-known impacts on plant communities to reductions mainly in stream macroinvertebrate diversity. Combined with the negative impact on pollution-sensitive macroinvertebrate taxa this raises concerns over the ecological health of streams with heavily invaded riparian zones. Our findings suggest that efforts to improve low order streams by actively managing severe riparian invasions are merited, but the size and uncertainty of the likely ecological gains must also be evaluated against the effort involved.

diversity; Fallopia japonica; Impatiens glandulifera; invasive species; macroinvertebrates;

Freshwater Biology: Volume 64, Issue 3

FundersScottish Natural Heritage
Publication date31/03/2019
Publication date online26/12/2018
Date accepted by journal12/11/2018

People (3)


Dr Colin Bull

Dr Colin Bull

Senior Lecturer in Aquaculture, Institute of Aquaculture

Dr Zarah Pattison

Dr Zarah Pattison

Senior Lecturer in Plant Sciences, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Professor Nigel Willby

Professor Nigel Willby

Professor & Associate Dean of Research, Biological and Environmental Sciences