Effects of local land-use on riparian vegetation, water quality, and the functional organization of macroinvertebrate assemblages

Land-use change is a principal factor affecting riparian vegetation and river biodiversity. In Chile, land-use change has drastically intensified over the last decade, with native forests converted to exotic forest plantations and agricultural land. However, the effects thereof on aquatic ecosystems are not well understood. Closing this knowledge gap first requires understanding how human perturbations affect riparian and stream biota. Identified biological indicators could then be applied to determine the health of fluvial ecosystems. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of land-use change on the health of riparian and aquatic ecosystems by assessing riparian vegetation, water quality, benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages, and functional feeding groups. Twenty-one sites in catchment areas with different land-uses (i.e. pristine forests, native forests, exotic forest plantations, and agricultural land) were selected and sampled during the 2010 to 2012 dry seasons. Riparian vegetation quality-was highest in pristine forests. Per the modified Macroinvertebrate Family Biotic Index for Chilean species, the best conditions existed in native forests and the worst in agricultural catchments. Water quality and macroinvertebrate assemblages significantly varied across land-use areas, with forest plantations and agricultural land having high nutrient concentrations, conductivity, suspended solids, and apparent color. Macroinvertebrate assemblage diversity was lowest for agricultural and exotic forest plantation catchments, with notable non-insect representation. Collector-gatherers were the most abundant functional feeding group, suggesting importance independent of land-use. Land-use areas showed no significant differences in functional feeding groups. In conclusion, anthropogenic land-use changes were detectable through riparian quality, water quality, and macroinvertebrate assemblages, but not through functional feeding groups. These data, particularly the riparian vegetation and macroinvertebrate assemblage parameters, could be applied towards the conservation and management of riparian ecosystems through land-use change studies. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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