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Defining Macroinvertebrate Assemblage Types of Headwater Streams: Implications for Bioassessment and Conservation

Jani Heino, Timo Muotka, Heikki Mykrä, Riku Paavola, Heikki Hämäläinen and Esa Koskenniemi
Ecological Applications
Vol. 13, No. 3 (Jun., 2003), pp. 842-852
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4134700
Page Count: 11
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Defining Macroinvertebrate Assemblage Types of Headwater Streams: Implications for Bioassessment and Conservation
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Abstract

We used data from 235 boreal headwater streams in Finland to examine whether macroinvertebrate assemblages constitute clearly definable types, and how well biologically defined assemblage types can be predicted using environmental variables. Two-way indicator species analysis produced 10 assemblage types, which differed significantly from each other (multiresponse permutation procedure, MRPP). However, based on MRPP and nonmetric multidimensional scaling, there was wide variation among sites within each assemblage type, and high degrees of overlap among assemblage types. Such continuous variation was also evidenced by the low number of effective indicator taxa (indicator value method) for each assemblage type. Furthermore, discriminant function analysis based on environmental variables showed a moderate yet variable prediction success (59.6% of sites correctly predicted; range 0-96% per group). Canonical correspondence analysis indicated that variation in assemblage structure was primarily related to latitude and water chemistry, especially pH and water color. The absence of discrete macroinvertebrate assemblage types in boreal headwater streams may stem from a number of reasons: (1) macroinvertebrate taxa inhabiting boreal streams tend to exhibit individualistic, taxon-specific responses to environmental gradients, (2) they have wide environmental tolerances and geographic distributions, and (3) boreal streams are characterized by frequent, unpredictable disturbances. Our results suggest that local filters in headwater streams are relatively weak, resulting in poorly distinguishable assemblage types. By contrast, the major latitudinal gradients in macroinvertebrate assemblage structure suggest that regional-scale filters, e.g., temperature, exert strong control over taxon distributions in headwater streams. We suggest that a tiered approach combining regional stratification and subsequent prediction of assemblage structure could provide a suitable framework for the bioassessment and conservation of boreal headwater streams.

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