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Turnover patterns in fish versus macroinvertebrates — implications for conservation planning

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Spatial patterns in taxonomic richness and turnover for fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates are compared to assess the relative usefulness of each taxonomic group in mapping biodiversity patterns. Fish and aquatic macroinvertebrate species data for sites down the longitudinal axes of nine rivers in four provinces along the eastern side of South Africa were analysed. Fish and aquatic macroinvertebrate data from previous studies and recent river surveys were used in analyses of species richness and turnover. Fish proved to be not useful for mapping biodiversity patterns, as measured by turnover, whereas aquatic macroinvertebrate species patterns exhibited predictable patterns of turnover with downstream distance. Average turnover rates could be decomposed into turnover of common (‘core’) species, which were accelerated by presence of rare and narrow-range species. Disruptions to the river continuum impacted on the rate of turnover. Consistent with other research on South African rivers, aquatic macroinvertebrate communities could be grouped into upland versus lowland assemblages, and also be defined by longitudinal zones. Fish biodiversity patterns should be viewed at a riverscape scale, whereas macroinvertebrate patterns are more easily discerned at a segment-reach scale, and applied to reflect connectivity and environmental gradients respectively.

Keywords: KwaZulu-Natal; South Africa; alpha diversity; aquatic macroinvertebrates; beta diversity; longitudinal axis; rivers; sampling efficiency

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences,University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01Scottsville,3209, South Africa

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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