Seasonal drought plays a stronger role than wildfire in shaping macroinvertebrate communities of Mediterranean streams

Authors

  • Iraima Verkaik,

    Corresponding author
    1. Freshwater Ecology and Management (F.E.M.) Research Group, Departament d'Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    • Correspondence: Dr. Iraima Verkaik, Freshwater Ecology and Management (F.E.M.) Research Group, Departament d'Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028-Barcelona, Spain

      E-mail: iverkaik@ub.edu

      Fax: +34 93 4111438

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  • Mireia Vila-Escalé,

    1. Freshwater Ecology and Management (F.E.M.) Research Group, Departament d'Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Maria Rieradevall,

    1. Freshwater Ecology and Management (F.E.M.) Research Group, Departament d'Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Narcís Prat

    1. Freshwater Ecology and Management (F.E.M.) Research Group, Departament d'Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Handling Editor: Michael Schäffer

Abstract

Mediterranean climate ecosystems are characterised by frequent fires, but few studies have focused on the effects of fire disturbance on biological communities in streams in these ecosystems. To compare the responses of macroinvertebrate communities to wildfire, eight sites were established and annually sampled for 5 years. Two months after fire, the number and abundance of macroinvertebrate taxa were not significantly different from those in control streams, but their composition and functional attributes had changed. As expected, an increase in r-strategy taxa was observed during the year following fire. Above all, macroinvertebrate assemblages responded more strongly to hydrology (previous spring precipitation) than to fire. Drought was found to be an overriding disturbance factor, but macroinvertebrate assemblages showed high resilience. In a climate change scenario coupled with human demand for water, it will be important to study the effects of drought interacting with other disturbances like wildfire (which is in turn driven by drought).

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