Multi-scale assessment of macroinvertebrate richness and composition in Mediterranean-climate rivers
1. Similar constraints in distant, but climatically comparable, regions may be expected to yield biotic assemblages with similar attributes. Environmental factors that constrain communities at smaller scales, however, may be different between climatically similar regions. Thus, patterns observed at large scales may differ from those detected at small scales, and international comparisons should be focussed at multiple scales.
2. Mediterranean-climate regions (MCRs) are characterized by remarkable seasonal variability in precipitation and temperature. Accordingly, rivers in these regions have seasonal and predictable floods and droughts, and temporary reaches are frequent. Present in six geographical regions of the world, MCRs have similar environmental constraints and are ideal for testing intercontinental similarities between macroinvertebrate communities.
3. We examined aquatic macroinvertebrate taxon richness and composition in MCRs at three scales: regional, reach and macrohabitat. At the regional scale, the Mediterranean Basin had the highest taxon richness at family level, and southwestern Australia the lowest. Taxonomic composition showed c. 85% similarity between the northern hemisphere MCRs of California and the Mediterranean Basin, which were followed in similarity by South Africa. The two Australian MCRs (South west and South) showed a similarity to each other of about 70% whereas the Chilean fauna was the most distinct.
4. At the reach scale, taxon richness was not significantly different between permanent and temporary reaches in any MCR, whereas taxonomic composition was significantly different among northern hemisphere MCRs. At the macrohabitat scale, taxon richness was not significantly different between lotic and lentic macrohabitats within any of the MCRs, but differences in macroinvertebrate communities were found between macrohabitats when considering regions.
5. Our results show that the strength of similarity between distant but climatically similar regions is scale-dependent, being highest at the macrohabitat scale. Although the similarities in richness and composition at the macrohabitat scale are presumed to be universal, the seasonal predictability of drought in MCRs is expected to result in characteristic macroinvertebrate responses at the reach scale. We suggest, however, that regional evolutionary history and environmental characteristics may override this general pattern of a similar response of MCRs at different scales. The Mediterranean Basin and California, having similar historical and environmental condition, thus appeared as the most similar MCRs at all scales.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain 2: Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa 3: Aquatic Ecosystems Research Group, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 4: Aquatic Systems Research Unit, Environmental Science Center EULA-Chile, University of Concepcion, Concepción, Chile 5: Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.
Publication date: April 1, 2008