Environmental stability and communities of chironomidae (diptera) in a regulated river

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Abstract

Changes in the faunal composition and density of communities of chironomid larvae were studied over a four year period in a newly regulated stream and compared with those in an adjacent unregulated stream, with a view to examining “stability” in contrasting environments. A total of 68 chironomid taxa were recorded from all sites. Faunal diversity was lowest closest to the dam and highest in the unregulated site. Within the study period values of H were highest in the fourth year of study (five years after dam closure). Species increments were tending to level out at the three totally regulated sites whereas at the partially regulated and unregulated sites new taxa continued to be recorded in samples.

Clustering techniques and similarity indices clearly separated the study sites based on the composition of the chironomid fauna and there were indications that the unregulated sites were more variable in faunal composition between years than the regulated sites. The data are used to develop a conceptual model of fluctuations in faunal parameters under steady or reduced flow regimes. It is suggested that environmental stability brought about by regulation has structured the composition of the chironomid community and further that the changes occur very rapidly after impoundment. The model identifies key areas of faunal change and the question of environmental stability is discussed in relation to the scale of observation.

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