ECOLOGICAL ROLE OF BENTHIC CRUSTACEANS IN CHILEAN NORTH PATAGONIAN LAKES AND RIVERS (ARAUCANIA REGION, 39 degrees S)
- The Chilean north Patagonian inland waters are characterized by their low mineral concentrations. In their original status, many of these ecosystems have native vegetation in their surrounding drainage basins, but in the last decades the native vegetation was replaced by agricultural, urban, and industrial zones, with as a result of these human alterations that those aquatic communities changed. The aim of the present study was to make a literature review about the ecological role of crustaceans in Chilean north Patagonian lakes and rivers. The literature mentioned the presence of amphipods (Hyalella), crayfishes (Samastacus spinifrons), and freshwater crabs (genus Aegla), and many of these species hold a conservation risk due to the consequences of habitat damage and/or their high endemism. These crustaceans are important for the degradation of particulate organic matter originating from the surrounding vegetation, and are prey for native and introduced salmonid fishes. Similar patterns had already been observed for Argentinean Patagonian rivers.