Aquatic fauna in the driest desert on earth: First report on the crustacean fauna of the Loa River (Atacama Desert, Antofagasta Region, Chile)

Datos de publicación:
Crustaceana, Vol. 83 , N°3, 257-266, 2010
Fauna acuática - Río Loa - Atacama - Intervención antrópica
The longest river in Chile, the Loa, is in fact found in the Atacama Desert in the far north of the country. Being an important resource for the dry Antofagasta region, this river experiences high anthropogenic impacts due to water use for mining, urban, and agricultural activities. Unfortunately, few biological surveys have been conducted in the Loa, and the invertebrate fauna in particular is poorly known. The aim of this study is to characterize the microcrustacean species associations at various sites of the Loa River and some of its tributaries. Unexpectedly high species richness was detected at high-altitude sites, where the amphipods Hyalella fossamanchini and H. kochi were reported. At low-altitude sites only the ostracod Heterocypris panningi was found. No significant correlation was detected between species richness and salinity, nor between richness and conductivity. Although a null model community analysis indicated that the microcrustacean species associations in the Loa are largely random, species richness and altitude were significantly and positively correlated. Potential causes of this pattern include the accumulation of nutrients and pollution along the course of the river, as well as increasing temperatures in the lower-altitude zones of the river. The biogeography of the constituent members of the Loa fauna is discussed. © 2010 Brill Academic Publishers.