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Regional and local drivers of macroinvertebrate assemblages in boreal springs

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Abstract Aim 

To identify the most important environmental drivers of benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in boreal springs at different spatial scales, and to assess how well benthic assemblages correspond to terrestrially derived ecoregions. Location 

Finland. Methods 

Benthic invertebrates were sampled from 153 springs across four boreal ecoregions of Finland, and these data were used to analyse patterns in assemblage variation in relation to environmental factors. Species data were classified using hierarchical divisive clustering (twinspan) and ordinated using non-metric multidimensional scaling. The prediction success of the species and environmental data into a priori (ecoregions) and a posteriori (twinspan) groups was compared using discriminant function analysis. Indicator species analysis was used to identify indicator taxa for both a priori and a posteriori assemblage types. Results 

The main patterns in assemblage clusters were related to large-scale geographical variation in temperature. A secondary gradient in species data reflected variation in local habitat structure, particularly abundance of minerogenic spring brooks. Water chemistry variables were only weakly related to assemblage variation. Several indicator species representing southern faunistic elements in boreal springs were identified. Discriminant function analysis showed poorer success in classifying sites into ecoregions based on environmental than on species data. Similarly, when classifying springs into thetwinspangroups, classification based on species data vastly outperformed that based on environmental data. Main conclusions 

A latitudinal zonation pattern of spring assemblages driven by regional thermal conditions is documented, closely paralleling corresponding latitudinal patterns in both terrestrial and freshwater assemblages in Fennoscandia. The importance of local-scale environmental variables increased with decreasing spatial extent. Ecoregions provide an initial stratification scheme for the bioassessment of benthic macroinvertebrates of North European springs. Our results imply that climate warming, landscape disturbance and degradation of spring habitat pose serious threats to spring biodiversity in northern Europe, especially to its already threatened southern faunistic elements.

Keywords: Aquatic insects; Europe; Finland; benthic macroinvertebrates; biodiversity; community structure; ecoregions; ecotone; habitat heterogeneity; springs

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ruuhikoskenkatu 17 B 5, Salo 2: Department of Biology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

Publication date: May 1, 2009


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