Linkages between reach-scale physical habitat and invertebrate assemblages in upland streams



Milner VS, Willby N, Gilvear D & Perfect C (2015) Linkages between reach-scale physical habitat and invertebrate assemblages in upland streams. Marine and Freshwater Research, 66 (5), pp. 438-448.

Determining the influence of physical habitat on biological structure in minimally disturbed settings is important if the effects of alterations to physical habitat are to be understood. This study tested whether reach-scale differences in physical habitat influence macroinvertebrate community composition at 24 sites in the Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland. Stream reaches were classified into channel types based on a geomorphic typology (i.e. step-pool, bedrock, plane-bed and pool-riffle). PERMANOVA indicated an overall significant relationship between the geomorphic typology and macroinvertebrate species-level composition, and among all combinations of channel types (such as step-pool and pool-riffle, step-pool and bedrock). Most channel types were dominated by high abundances ofBaetis rhodani,Rhithrogena semicolorataandLeuctra inermis, which are ubiquitous in unpolluted gravel-bedded Scottish streams. However, reflecting significant differences in abundance of commoner taxa between types, indicator value (IndVal) analysis revealed that pool-riffle reaches were characterised by elmids (Limniussp. andOulimniussp.) andCaenis rivulorum, and step-pool reaches byAlainites muticus,B. rhodani,L. inermisandBrachyptera risi. Geomorphic typing of rivers provides a useful basis for the initial assessment of ecological status whereas abundance-based biological data processed at the appropriate taxonomic resolution should be sensitive to physical-habitat modifications.

channel type; geomorphic typology; macroinvertebrate; physical habitat heterogeneity

Marine and Freshwater Research: Volume 66, Issue 5

Publication date31/01/2015
Publication date online08/01/2015
Date accepted by journal22/07/2014
PublisherCSIRO Publishing

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Professor Nigel Willby
Professor Nigel Willby

Professor & Associate Dean of Research, Biological and Environmental Sciences