• benthic macroinvertebrates;
  • Mediterranean rivers;
  • River Habitat Survey;
  • spatial scale;
  • habitat;
  • reach;
  • basin;
  • partial canonical correspondence analyses


  • 1.
    The imminent damming of the Odelouca River, an intermittent Mediterranean river situated in the south-west Algarve region of Portugal with valuable stands of riparian vegetation, has called for the compulsory implementation of compensatory measures.
  • 2.
    In order to assess the primary environmental and human factors that drive change in the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages of the Odelouca, and the spatial scale at which they occur, 30 sites were sampled for benthic macroinvertebrates and extensively surveyed using River Habitat Survey (RHS) in spring 2005.
  • 3.
    A hierarchical cluster analysis of selected physical and RHS variables clearly indicated gradients of habitat quality (instream and riparian corridor) along both main channel and tributaries. Analysis of macroinvertebrate metrics by parametric and non-parametric ANOVA showed the derived clusters of groups to be biologically distinct.
  • 4.
    From a total of 64 variables, divided into two explanatory variable groups (environmental or pressure) over three spatial scales (habitat, reach and basin), just 20, predominantly environmental, variables were retained for subsequent analyses.
  • 5.
    Partial canonical correspondence analyses of the selected environmental and pressure variables over the defined spatial scales showed that environmental variables contributed most significantly over all of the spatial scales and that pressure variables related to land-use only contributed significantly at the level of the river basin.
  • 6.
    Variables recorded by RHS contribute successfully to the detection of habitat quality gradients in a Mediterranean river system and the strongest drivers of macroinvertebrate change are primarily, but not exclusively, environmental factors occurring at middle and higher spatial scales.
  • 7.
    Compensatory measures must therefore be implemented across a range of spatial scales, taking into account abiotic and biotic processes characteristic of disturbance-driven Mediterranean systems that contribute to habitat heterogeneity and quality and confer functional and trophic diversity to the macroinvertebrate assemblages.

Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.