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Land-use effects on structural and functional composition of benthic and leaf-associated macroinvertebrates in four Andean streams

Research paper by Carlos Iñiguez-Armijos, Henrietta Hampel, Lutz Breuer

Indexed on: 01 Dec '17Published on: 13 Nov '17Published in: Aquatic Ecology



Abstract

The replacement of native forests by pastures takes place widely in the Andes. The effects of such land-use change on aquatic assemblages are poorly understood. We conducted a comparative analysis of the effects of forest conversion to pastures on the taxonomic, structural, and functional composition of macroinvertebrates (benthic and leaf-associated) in montane and upper montane streams (ecosystem type) of the south Ecuadorian Andes. Taxonomic composition of benthic and leaf-associated macroinvertebrates was different between ecosystem type and land use. Also, major differences in the structural and functional composition of benthic and leaf-associated macroinvertebrates were mainly promoted by land use in both ecosystem types. Forested streams showed higher diversity than pasture streams, sustaining more shredder, scraper, and predatory invertebrates. We also observed differences in the macroinvertebrate communities between benthic and leaf-bag samples. Leaf bags had lower diversity and more collector invertebrates than benthic samples. This study highlights the large effect of riparian forest conversion to pasture land on macroinvertebrate communities, and the importance of using appropriate sampling techniques to characterize aquatic assemblages. We also recommend the maintenance and restoration of riparian vegetation to mitigate the effects of deforestation on stream communities and ecosystem processes.