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

Species traits and resilience of meiofauna to floods and drought in a Mediterranean stream

Ainhoa Gaudes A C , Joan Artigas B and Isabel Muñoz A

A Departament d’Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avinguda Diagonal 645, E-08028 Barcelona, Spain.

B Institut d’Ecologia Aquàtica i Departament de Ciències Ambientals, Facultat de Ciències, Universitat de Girona, Campus Montilivi, E-17071 Girona, Spain.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(11) 1336-1347
Submitted: 19 February 2010  Accepted: 11 July 2010   Published: 16 November 2010


In Mediterranean streams, droughts and floods are mainly seasonal and predictable, occurring twice or three times a year. Under these conditions, multivoltinism and short life-cycles would be favoured, particularly for organisms with low migratory capacity. The meiofaunal community is therefore hypothesised to have species traits adapted to these hydrological perturbations. However, meiofauna have been neglected in many lotic studies. The present study examined the temporal variability of meiofaunal density and biomass over a 2-year period in three reaches of a low-order Mediterranean stream. Relationships between biological traits and hydrological and environmental characteristics were investigated. Resilience of meiofauna to floods was quantified using regression. Small differences in basin drainage resulted in different responses. The abundance and resilience of the meiofauna were higher in the upstream reach than those in the downstream communities. A small, worm-shaped body and active locomotor structures conferred higher resilience in the face of natural hydrological disturbances. Low-order reaches are refugia for functionally important meiofauna that can eventually repopulate downstream reaches.

Additional keywords: disturbance, headwater, intermittent, meiofauna biomass, meiofauna density.


Acuña V.Muñoz I.Giorgi A.Omella M.Sabater al.2005Drought and postdrought recovery cycles in an intermittent Mediterranean stream: structural and functional aspects.Journal of the North American Benthological Society24919933doi:10.1899/04-078.1

Álvarez M. (2004). Ecología de los ríos temporales de la isla de Mallorca. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Vigo, Spain.

APHA (American Public Health Association) (1992). ‘Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater.’ 18th edn. (American Public Health Association: Washington, DC.)

Artigas J.Romani A. M.Gaudes A.Muñoz I.Sabater S.2009Organic matter availability structures microbial biomass and activity in a Mediterranean stream.Freshwater Biology5420252036doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.2008.02140.X

Bonada N.Prat N.Resh V. H.Statzner B.2006Developments in aquatic insect biomonitoring: a comparative analysis of recent approaches.Annual Review of Entomology51495523doi:10.1146/ANNUREV.ENTO.51.110104.151124

Bonada N.Rieradevall M.Prat N.2007Macroinvertebrate community structure and biological traits related to flow permanence in a Mediterranean river network.Hydrobiologia58991106doi:10.1007/S10750-007-0723-5

Boulton A. J.Lake P. S.1992The ecology of 2 intermittent streams in Victoria, Australia. 3. Temporal changes in faunal composition.Freshwater Biology27123138doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.1992.TB00528.X

Butturini A.Bernal S.Nin E.Hellin C.Rivero al.2003Influences of the stream groundwater hydrology on nitrate concentration in unsaturated riparian area bounded by an intermittent Mediterranean stream.Water Resources Research391110doi:10.1029/2001WR001260

Claret C.Marmonier P.Dole-Olivier M.-J.Creuzé des Châtelliers M.Boulton A. al.1999A functional classification of interstitial invertebrates: supplementing measures of biodiversity using species traits and habitat affinities.Archiv für Hydrobiologie145385405

Clarke K. R., and Gorley R. N. (2006). ‘PRIMER v6: User Manual/tutorial.’ (PRIMER-E: Plymouth, UK.)

Davies P. E.Cook L. S. J.McIntosh P. D.Munks S. A.2005Changes in stream biota along a gradient of logging disturbance, 15 years after logging at Ben Nevis, Tasmania.Forest Ecology and Management219132148

Dole-Olivier M. J.Marmonier P.Beffy J. L.1997Response of invertebrates to lotic disturbance: is the hyporheic zone a patchy refugium?Freshwater Biology37257276doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.1997.00140.X

Doledec S.Statzner B.Bournaud M.1999Species traits for future biomonitoring across ecoregions: patterns along a human-impacted river.Freshwater Biology42737758doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.1999.00509.X

Domènech R.Gaudes A.Lopez-Doval J. C.Salvado H.Muñoz I.2006Effects of short-term nutrient addition on microfauna density in a Mediterranean stream.Hydrobiologia568207215doi:10.1007/S10750-006-0107-2

Downes B. J.Lake P. S.Schreiber E. S. G.1993Spatial variation in the distribution of stream invertebrates – Implications of patchiness for models of community organization.Freshwater Biology30119132doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.1993.TB00793.X

Fenchel T.1978The ecology of micro- and meiobenthos.Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics999121doi:10.1146/ANNUREV.ES.09.110178.000531

Frissell C. A.Liss W. J.Warren C. E.Hurley M. D.1986A hierarchical framework for stream habitat classification – Viewing streams in a watershed context.Environmental Management10199214doi:10.1007/BF01867358

Gasith A.Resh V. H.1999Streams in Mediterranean climate regions: abiotic influences and biotic responses to predictable seasonal events.Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics305181doi:10.1146/ANNUREV.ECOLSYS.30.1.51

Gaudes A.Artigas J.Romani A. M.Sabater S.Munoz I.2009Contribution of microbial and invertebrate communities to leaf litter colonization in a Mediterranean stream.Journal of the North American Benthological Society283443doi:10.1899/07-131.1

Geider R. J.MacIntyre H. L.Kana T. M.1996A dynamic model of photoadaptation in phytoplankton.Limnology and Oceanography41115doi:10.4319/LO.1996.41.1.0001

Gonzalez J. M.Graça M. A. S.2003Conversion of leaf litter to secondary production by a shredding caddis-fly.Freshwater Biology4815781592doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.2003.01110.X

Gooderham J. P. R.Barmuta L. A.Davies P. E.2007Upstream heterogeneous zones: small stream systems structured by a lack of competence?Journal of the North American Benthological Society26365374doi:10.1899/06-067.1

Gordon N. D., McMahon T. A., and Finlayson B. L. (1992). ‘Stream Hydrology: An Introduction for Ecologists.’ (John Wiley and Sons: London.)

Grimm N. B.Fisher S. G.1989Stability of periphyton and macroinvertebrates to disturbance by flash floods in a desert stream.Journal of the North American Benthological Society8293307doi:10.2307/1467493

Griswold M. W.Berzinis R. W.Crisman T. L.Golladay S. W.2008Impacts of climatic stability on the structural and functional aspects of macroinvertebrate communities after severe drought.Freshwater Biology5324652483doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.2008.02067.X

Hakenkamp C. C.Morin A.2000The importance of meiofauna to lotic ecosystem functioning.Freshwater Biology44165175doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.2000.00589.X

Higgins R. P., and Thiel H. (1988). ‘Introduction to the Study of Meiofauna.’ (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC.)

Humphries P.Baldwin D. S.2003Drought and aquatic ecosystems: an introduction.Freshwater Biology4811411146doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.2003.01092.X

Ilg C.Dziock F.Foeckler F.Follner K.Gerisch al.2008Long-term reactions of plants and macroinvertebrates to extreme floods in floodplain grasslands.Ecology8923922398doi:10.1890/08-0528.1

Jeffrey S. W.Humphrey G. F.1975New spectrophotometric equations for determining chlorophylls a, b, c1 and c2 in higher-plants, algae and natural phytoplankton.Biochemie und Physiologie der Pflanzen167191194

Lake P. S.2000Disturbance, patchiness, and diversity in streams.Journal of the North American Benthological Society19573592

Lake P. S.2003Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters.Freshwater Biology4811611172doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.2003.01086.X

Lepori F.Hjerdt N.2006Disturbance and aquatic biodiversity: reconciling contrasting views.BioScience56809818doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2006)56[809:DAABRC]2.0.CO;2

Malmqvist B.2002Aquatic invertebrates in riverine landscapes.Freshwater Biology47679694doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.2002.00895.X

Minshall G. W.1988Stream ecosystem theory – A global perspective.Journal of the North American Benthological Society7263288doi:10.2307/1467294

Oksanen J., Kindt R., Legendre P., O’Hara B., Simpson G. L., et al. (2008). ‘Vegan: Community Ecology Package. R Package Version 1.15-0.’ Available at, [verified 19 July 2010].

Palmer M. A.1990Temporal and spatial dynamics of meiofauna within the hyporheic zone of Goose Creek, Virginia.Journal of the North American Benthological Society91725doi:10.2307/1467930

Palmer M. A., and Strayer D. L. (1996). Meiofauna. In ‘Methods in Stream Ecology’. (Eds R. Hauer and G. Lamberti.) pp. 315–337. (Academic Press: Oxford, UK.)

Perlmutter D. G.Meyer J. L.1991The impact of a stream dwelling harpacticoid copepod upon detritally associated bacteria.Ecology7221702180doi:10.2307/1941568

R Development Core Team (2010). R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. (R Foundation for Statistical Computing: Vienna, Austria.) Available at [verified 19 July 2010].

Reiss J.Schmid-Araya J. M.2008Existing in plenty: abundance, biomass and diversity of ciliates and meiofauna in small streams.Freshwater Biology53652668doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.2007.01907.X

Resh V. H.Brown A. V.Covich A. P.Gurtz M. E.Li H. al.1988The role of disturbances in stream ecology.Journal of the North American Benthological Society7433455doi:10.2307/1467300

Sabater S.Bernal S.Butturini A.Nin E.Sabater F.2001Wood and leaf debris input in a Mediterranean stream: the influence of riparian vegetation.Archiv für Hydrobiologie15391102

Sabater S.Guasch H.Muñoz I.Romani A.2006Hydrology, light and the use of organic and inorganic materials as structuring factors of biological communities in Mediterranean streams.Limnetica25335347

Sabater S.Elosegi A.Acuña V.Basaguren A.Muñoz al.2008Effect of climate on the trophic structure of temperate forested streams. A comparison of Mediterranean and Atlantic streams.Science of the Total Environment390475484

Schmid-Araya J. M.1994Temporal and spatial distribution of benthic microfauna in sediments of a gravel streambed.Limnology and Oceanography3918131821doi:10.4319/LO.1994.39.8.1813

Stamou G. P. (1998). ‘Arthropods of Mediterranean-type Ecosystems.’ (Springer-Verlag: Berlin.)

Stanley E. H.Fisher S. G.Grimm N. B.1997Ecosystem expansion and contraction in streams.BioScience47427435doi:10.2307/1313058

Statzner B.Bady P.Dolédec S.Schöll F.2005Invertebrate traits for the biomonitoring of large European rivers: an initial assessment of trait patterns in least impacted river reaches.Freshwater Biology5021362161doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.2005.01447.X

Stead T. K.Schmid-Araya J. M. A.Hildrew A. G.2005Secondary production of a stream metazoan community: does the meiofauna make a difference?Limnology and Oceanography50398403doi:10.4319/LO.2005.50.1.0398

Swan C. M.Palmer M. A.2000What drives small-scale spatial patterns in lotic meiofauna communities?Freshwater Biology44109121doi:10.1046/J.1365-2427.2000.00587.X

Thorp J. H.Delong A. D.2002Dominance of autochthonous autotrophic carbon in food webs of heterotrophic rivers.Oikos96543550doi:10.1034/J.1600-0706.2002.960315.X

Thorp J. H.Thoms M. C.Delong M. D.2006The riverine ecosystem synthesis: biocomplexity in river networks across space and time.River Research and Applications22123147doi:10.1002/RRA.901

Townsend C. R.1989The patch dynamics concept of stream community ecology.Journal of the North American Benthological Society83650doi:10.2307/1467400

Townsend C. R.Hildrew A. G.1994Species traits in relation to a habitat templet for river systems.Freshwater Biology31265275doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.1994.TB01740.X

Uehlinger U.2000Resistance and resilience of ecosystem metabolism in a flood-prone river system.Freshwater Biology45319332doi:10.1111/J.1365-2427.2000.00620.X

von Schiller D.Martí E.Riera J. L.Ribot M.Argerich al.2008Inter-annual, annual, and seasonal variation of P and N retention in a perennial and an intermittent stream.Ecosystems11670687doi:10.1007/S10021-008-9150-3

Williams D. D. (1987). ‘The Ecology of Temporary Waters.’ (Timber Press: Portland, OR, USA.)

Williams D. D. (2006). ‘The Biology of Temporary Waters.’ (Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.)

Williams D. D.Hynes H. B. N.1976The ecology of temporary streams I. The faunas of two Canadian streams.Internationale Revue der Gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie61761787doi:10.1002/IROH.19760610604

Export Citation