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

Relative salinity tolerance of freshwater macroinvertebrates from the south-east Eastern Cape, South Africa compared with the Barwon Catchment, Victoria, Australia

Ben J. Kefford A C , Carolyn G. Palmer B and Dayanthi Nugegoda A

A Biotechnology and Environmental Biology, School of Applied Science, RMIT University, PO Box 71, Bundoora, Vic. 3083, Australia.

B Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality, Institute for Water Research (IWR), Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown, 6140, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 56(2) 163-171
Submitted: 13 May 2004  Accepted: 3 February 2005   Published: 12 April 2005


Salinity is rising in many southern African and Australian rivers with unknown effects on aquatic organisms. The extent of spatial variation, at any scale, in salt tolerances of aquatic organisms is unknown, so whether data from one location is applicable elsewhere is also unknown. The acute tolerances (72-h median lethal concentration (LC50)) to sea salt of 49 macroinvertebrate taxa from the south-east Eastern Cape (SEEC), South Africa were compared with those of 57 species from the Barwon Catchment, Victoria, Australia. The mean LC50 values from both locations were similar (Barwon: 31 and SEEC: 32 mS cm-1) and less abundant (rare) taxa tended to be more tolerant than more abundant (common) taxa. There was, however, a greater range of LC50 values (5.5–76 mS cm-1) in the Barwon Catchment than in the SEEC (11–47 mS cm-1). The species sensitivity distribution (SSD) for SEEC taxa was bimodal whereas the Barwon Catchment’s SSD had a single peak. With few exceptions, members of an order had similar tolerances in both locations. The differences in SSD between locations were related to crustacean, odonate and non-arthropod relative richness. Although it is not ideal to extrapolate SSDs from one location to another, it may be reasonable to assume similar salinity tolerances among related taxa.

Extra keywords: acute salinity tolerance, ecotoxicity, rarity, stream invertebrates.


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