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Comparing the responses of diatoms and macroinvertebrates to metals in upland streams of Wales and Cornwall

Hirst, Heike, Juttner, Ingrid and Ormerod, Stephen James 2002. Comparing the responses of diatoms and macroinvertebrates to metals in upland streams of Wales and Cornwall. Freshwater Biology 47 (9) , pp. 1752-1765. 10.1046/j.1365-2427.2002.00904.x

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SUMMARY 1. Surprisingly few data compare the apparent responses of diatoms and macroinvertebrates to metals in streams. We examined variation in metals, diatoms and macroinvertebrates between 51 streams in metal-mining areas of Wales and Cornwall, U.K., using a survey design with multiple reference and polluted sites. 2. To quantify variations in metals between sites, we calculated cumulative criterion unit (CCU) scores, a recently defined measure of total stream metal concentration and toxicity, to account for additive effects of each metal relative to putative toxic thresholds. We compared assemblage responses among epilithic diatoms and macroinvertebrates to CCU scores or individual metal concentrations using correlation and detrended correspondence analysis (DCA). 3. Macroinvertebrate diversity, richness and total abundance declined and evenness increased with increasing copper concentrations. Trends with CCU scores were significant but less pronounced. Some individual macroinvertebrate taxa varied significantly in abundance with CCU scores, copper or zinc, but overall assemblage composition correlated only with manganese, pH and nitrate. 4. Among diatoms, pH and conductivity explained the major variations in assemblage composition, and neither diversity, richness nor evenness varied with metal concentration. Nevertheless, the single strongest predictor of diatom assemblages on ordination axis 2 was the CCU score. The abundances of some macroinvertebrate taxa, particularly grazers, also explained significant variations in diatom assemblages that were linked to both metals and acid–base status. 5. Diatom species apparently tolerant of high metal concentrations included Psammothidium helveticum, Eunotia subarcuatoides, Pinnularia subcapitata and Sellaphora seminulum. Of these, P. helveticum, E. subarcuatoides and P. subcapitata were abundant at lower pH than S.seminulum and might indicate metal enrichment over different pH ranges. Sensitive species included Fragilaria capucina var. rumpens, Achnanthes oblongella and Tabellaria flocculosa. 6. We conclude that macroinvertebrates at these sites reflected metal pollution most strongly through variations in diversity while effects on diatoms were best reflected by changes in assemblage composition. We suggest that, with further refinement, CCU scores might be useful in evaluating the possible effects of metal pollution on benthic organisms in European rivers.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Uncontrolled Keywords: benthic communities; biomonitoring; cumulative criterion unit; mining; pollution
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 1365-2427
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:50

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