Factors structuring macroinvertebrate communities in a headwater stream and its springs in the Upper Austrian Limestone Alps



The Almbach, a headwater stream in the Upper Austrian foothills of the Alps bordered by mountain pastures was studied to gain insight into the benthic macroinvertebrate community and its habitat. Two springs, one of them fenced in to prevent livestock access, and two more sites of the headwater section were investigated. A discriminant analysis (DA) based on hydrochemistry and phytobenthos revealed three functions with 86% of all samples correctly classified to the four sites. The first function clearly separated the two springs with phosphorus and oxygen as the most important discriminating factors. Spring sites and headwater sites were split up by the second function mainly due to nitrate concentration, but no differences could be detected for the two stream sites. With the exception of the fenced spring, indicator taxa could be assigned to all sites by means of an Indicator Species Analysis (ISA). Polyvalent taxa groups such as Gastropoda and Ostracoda were indicators for the unfenced spring site. This is in accordance to observed low abundances of sensitive plecopteran taxa and suggests a negative impact of livestock trampling on the invertebrate community. Redundancy Analysis explained 99% of the macroinvertebrate-environment relation. The first axis separated springs from stream sites and was correlated with nitrate, pH, water temperature and phytobenthos eveness. Phosphorus was responsible for splitting the unfenced spring and the downstream station from the fenced spring and the upstream location along the second axis. Ephemeropteran taxa like Habrophlebia sp. were related to elevated pH, increased water temperature and low nitrate concentrations. In accordance to the ISA, nitrate played an important role for tolerant Gastropoda and Ostracoda at the unfenced spring. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.