Land-use influence on the functional organization of Afrotropical macroinvertebrate assemblages

Sitati, Augustine ; et al. (2021-04)

Studies investigating the effects of human activities on the functional organization of macroinvertebrate communities in tropical streams and rivers are very limited, despite these areas witnessing the greatest loss of natural forests globally. We investigated changes in taxon richness, numerical abundance and biomass of macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups (FFGs) in streams draining different land-use types in the Sosiani- Kipkaren River in western Kenya. Twenty-one sites in river reaches categorized as forested, mixed, urban or agricultural were sampled during the dry and wet seasons. Collected macroinvertebrates were identified to the lowest taxon possible (mainly genus) and classified into five major FFGs; collector-gatherers, collector-filterers, scrapers, predators and shredders. There were significant (p < 0.05) spatial variation in habitat quality, organic matter standing stocks, total suspended solids, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, temperature and nutrient concentrations across land-uses, with forested sites recording lowest values in mean water temperature, electrical conductivity and nutrients while recording highest levels in dissolved oxygen concentrations. Responses in macroinvertebrates to changes in land-use varied with richness, abundance and biomass showing differences within FFGs. Biomass-based metrics responded more strongly to change in land-use while taxon richness was the least predictive, indicating replacement of taxa within FFGs across land-use types. Higher shredder abundance, biomass and richness were recorded in forested streams which were cooler with protected riparian areas and high biomass of coarse particulate organic matter. Collector-gatherers dominated agricultural and urban streams owing to an abundance of particulate organic matter and nutrients, while scrapers responded positively to increased nutrient levels and open canopy in mixed and agricultural streams where primary production and algal biomass was likely increased. Overall, this study provides further evidence of the effects of agricultural and urban land-uses on tropical streams and rivers and contributes to the use of macroinvertebrate FFGs as indicators of ecological health.



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