Biological and ecological traits of benthic freshwater macroinvertebrates: relationships and definition of groups with similar traits
Philippe Usseglio-Polatera, EBSE, Université de Metz, BP 4116, F-57040 Metz Cedex 01, France. E-mail: email@example.com
- 1Relating species traits to habitat characteristics can provide important insights into the structure and functioning of stream communities. However, trade-offs among species traits make it difficult to predict accurately the functional diversity of freshwater communities. Many authors have pointed to the value of working with groups of organisms as similar as possible in terms of relationships among traits and have called for definition of groups of organisms with similar suites of attributes.
- 2We used multivariate analyses to examine separately the relationships among 11 biological traits and among 11 ecological traits of 472 benthic macroinvertebrate taxa (mainly genera). The main objective was to demonstrate (1) potential trade-offs among traits; (2) the importance of the different traits to separate systematic units or functional groupings; and (3) uniform functional groups of taxa that should allow a more effective use of macroinvertebrate biological and ecological traits.
- 3We defined eight groups and 15 subgroups according to a biological trait ordination which highlighted size (large to small), reproductive traits (K to r strategists), food (animal to plant material) and feeding habits (predator to scraper and/or deposit feeder) as ‘significant’ factors determining the ordination of taxa. This ordination partly preserved phylogenetic relationships among groups.
- 4Seven ecological groups and 13 ecological subgroups included organisms with combinations of traits which should be successively more adequate in habitats from the main channel to temporary waters, and from the crenon to the potamic sections of rivers, and to systems situated outside the river floodplain. These gradients corresponded to a gradual shift from (1) rheophilic organisms that lived in the main channel of cold oligotrophic mountain streams to (2) animals that preferred eutrophic habitats of still or temporary waters in lowlands. The groups with similar ecological traits had a more diverse systematic structure than those with similar biological traits.
- 5Monitoring and assessment tools for the management of water resources are generally more effective if they are based on a clear understanding of the mechanisms that lead to the presence or absence of species groups in the environment. We believe that groups with similar relationships among their species traits may be useful in developing tools that measure the functional diversity of communities.