The relative contributions of refugium types to the persistence of benthic invertebrates in a seasonal snowmelt flood



  1. Flow refugia, characterised by low hydraulic stress during a flood, are key habitats that contribute to the persistence of benthic invertebrate. We investigated the use of different refugium types distributed across stream and floodplains and clarified which refugia contributed most to the persistence of assemblage and population during a seasonal snowmelt flood.
  2. We sampled invertebrates and measured physical variables from six or nine types of channel units (‘riffle’, ‘run ‘, ‘lateral pool’, ‘backwater’, ‘abandoned pool’ and ‘tributary’ at base flow, plus ‘fast inundated area’, ‘slow inundated area’ and ‘side channel’ at high flow) at four times (before, during, immediately after and after a flood). We analysed the use of refugia by assemblages, species with different ecological ‘lifestyles’ (a classification into different modes of mobility: burrower, climber, sprawler, clinger and swimmer) and populations.
  3. Total density and species richness decreased significantly with flooding in riffles, runs and lateral pools. In contrast, total density and species richness did not change significantly in the other six types of channel units; therefore, these were distinguished as refugia. Among the six refugia, backwaters, tributaries and slow inundated areas had higher total densities than other refugia. The densities of the five lifestyles also decreased with flooding in riffles, runs and lateral pools. During flooding, high densities in backwaters and slow inundated areas were common for all lifestyles, whereas densities in other refugia varied with lifestyle.
  4. The results for five common species showed that refugium use is species-dependent. The mayfly Paraleptophlebia japonica (Leptophlebiidae) and the cased caddisfly Neophylax ussuriensis (Uenoidae) were more numerous in refugia during flooding and recovered rapidly after flooding. In contrast, the mayfly Epeorus latifolium (Heptageniidae) and the net-spinning caddisfly Hydropsyche orientalis (Hydropsychidae) were rare in all types of channel units during and immediately after flooding. The cased caddisfly Allomyia delicatula (Apataniidae) was specific to tributaries and persisted throughout the research period.
  5. Although some species did not use refugia effectively, various species with different mobility and ecological traits did persist and were found in refugia. Specifically, habitats with slowly flowing water that were spatially close to the main channel favoured the persistence of benthic invertebrates.