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Anthropogenic water bodies as drought refuge for aquatic macroinvertebrates and macrophytes

Ecological research associated with the importance of refuges has tended to focus on natural rather than anthropogenic water bodies. The frequency of disturbances, including drought events, is predicted to increase in many regions worldwide due to human-induced climate change. More frequent disturbance will affect freshwater ecosystems by altering hydrologic regimes, water chemistry, available habitat and assemblage structure. Under this scenario, many aquatic biota are likely to rely on permanent water bodies as refuge, including anthropogenic water bodies. Here, macroinvertebrate and macrophyte assemblages from waste-water treatment and raw-water storages (i.e. untreated potable water) were compared with nearby natural water bodies during autumn and winter 2013. We expected macroinvertebrate and macrophyte assemblages in raw-water storages to be representative of natural water bodies, while waste-water treatment storages would not, due to degraded water quality. However, water quality in natural water bodies differed from raw-water storages but was similar to waste-water treatment storages. Macroinvertebrate patterns matched those of water quality, with no differences occurring between natural water bodies and waste-water treatment storages, but assemblages in raw-water storages differed from the other two water bodies. Unexpectedly, differences associated with raw-water storages were attributable to low abundances of several taxa. Macrophyte assemblages in raw-water storages were representative of natural water bodies, but were less diverse and abundant in, or absent from, waste-water treatment storages. No clear correlations existed between any habitat variables and macroinvertebrate assemblages but a significant correlation between macrophyte assemblages and habitat characteristics existed. Thus, there were similarities in both water quality and macroinvertebrate assemblages between natural water bodies and waste-water treatment storages, and similarities in macrophyte assemblages between raw-water storages and natural water bodies. These similarities illustrate that anthropogenic water storages support representative populations of some aquatic biota across the landscape, and thus, may provide important refuge following disturbance where dispersal capabilities allow.



Science of the total environment




543 - 553




Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, Elsevier B.V.