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

Resilience of the macroinvertebrate community of a small mountain river (Mau River, Portugal) subject to multiple stresses

Tânia Vidal A B , Joana I. Santos A B , Catarina R. Marques A B , Joana L. Pereira A B , Maria Teresa Claro A B , Ruth Pereira B C , Bruno B. Castro A B D , Amadeu Soares A B and Fernando Gonçalves A B

A Department of Biology, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal.

B CESAM (Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies), University of Aveiro, Campus Universitário de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal.

C Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences – University of Porto, Portugal.

D Corresponding author. Email: brunocastro@ua.pt

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(7) 633-644 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13207
Submitted: 2 August 2013  Accepted: 29 October 2013   Published: 19 May 2014

Abstract

Freshwaters commonly face human pressure, which produces multiple stressor scenarios that may threaten their ecological status. Biotic community assessments are useful tools to monitor such changes, and the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) has brought this into the legislative framework. The present study focused on a small mountain river facing multiple stresses, with the purpose of (1) evaluating the sensitivity of the macroinvertebrate community to the stresses, (2) assessing whether the ecological status was impaired in different years and (3) comparing the WFD approach with more refined community analyses. The river was generally in a very good ecological state. Despite seasonal and inter-annual fluctuations, no evident stressor-related effects were detected. We hypothesise that the observed resilience was the result of (1) the current dormant state of the abandoned mining areas (the most relevant potential source of contamination) and (2) the naturalness and strong current of the river, which buffered the impacts of contamination. Such a pattern may be generally valid for small mountain rivers, making them therefore more resilient to stresses. Nevertheless, small changes in community structure in the lowest reach of the river – undetected by the WFD assessment scheme – suggest that some disturbance was present, signalling the need for intervention by managers.

Additional keywords: benthic invertebrates, community assessment, ecological indicators, multiple stresses, multivariate analysis, sediments, small mountain river, Water Framework Directive.


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