Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Regionalisation is key to establishing reference conditions for neotropical savanna streams

Isabela Martins A E , Raphael Ligeiro B , Robert M. Hughes C , Diego R. Macedo D and Marcos Callisto A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Laboratório de Ecologia de Bentos, Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Avenida Antônio Carlos 6627, CP 486, CEP 31270-901, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.

B Laboratório de Ecologia e Conservação, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Pará, Rua Augusto Corrêa 01, CEP 66075-110, Belém, PA, Brazil.

C Amnis Opes Institute and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, 104 Nash Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-4501, USA.

D Departamento de Geografia, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Avenida Antônio Carlos 6627, CEP 31270-901, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.

E Corresponding author. Email: isa.bela57@hotmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16381
Submitted: 18 November 2016  Accepted: 23 May 2017   Published online: 1 August 2017

Abstract

Areas with minimal anthropogenic influences are frequently used as reference sites and represent the best ecological state available in a region. Streams in such conditions are necessary for evaluating the conservation status of aquatic ecosystems of a region and to monitor them, taking natural environmental variability into consideration. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to analyse whether hydrological units are reliable regional units for aggregating reference sites. To this end, reference sites were studied in three different landscape units of the same hydrological unit. The study tested the hypothesis that water quality, physical habitat structure and the composition and structure of macroinvertebrate assemblages will be more similar for sites in the same landscape unit than for sites located in different landscape units in the same hydrological unit. The study showed that taxonomic richness and composition of the macroinvertebrate assemblages were negatively affected by site slope and positively affected by the presence of leaf packs on the streambed. The three landscape units supported significantly different macroinvertebrate assemblages and indicator taxa. Therefore, a hydrological unit does not constitute a homogeneous entity in terms of environmental variables and biological composition if it incorporates high landscape heterogeneity. These results should improve and facilitate the selection of reference sites for biomonitoring programs and for managing tropical headwater streams.

Additional keywords: benthic macroinvertebrates, bioindicators, Brazil, ecoregions, headwater streams, landscape units, least-disturbed conditions.


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