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Water level thresholds of benthic macroinvertebrate richness, structure, and function of boreal lake stony littoral habitats

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We investigated the role of water level fluctuation on benthic macroinvertebrate communities of stony littoral habitats located in the Boreal Shield Ecozone. Using the reference condition approach (RCA), regression analysis, nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS), and analysis of variance (ANOVA), we analyzed the benthic macroinvertebrate community structure of 20 natural lakes and 28 hydroelectric reservoirs to determine if they are structured by change in water level (amplitude). Along a gradient of amplitude intensity, we found that taxa richness decreases with increasing amplitude (r 2 = 0.47–0.60). Littoral benthic macroinvertebrate community structure is significantly different in reservoirs that experience amplitudes > 2.0 m. Out of 28 reservoirs, 13 fell outside the 95.5% confidence ellipse determined by 20 reference lakes. Functional mobility group and functional feeding group composition are also altered with increasing amplitude (nonparametric ANOVA, P < 0.05). Further, a change in benthic macroinvertebrate functional composition occurs after a change in taxa richness. Interestingly, reservoirs that experienced amplitudes < 2.0 m had benthic macroinvertebrate communities whose structural and functional composition is similar to lakes experiencing natural water level fluctuations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada. 2: Renewable Energy Section, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada. 3: Dorset Environmental Science Centre, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Dorset, ON P0A 1E0, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-10-19

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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