1. If resistance traits drive recolonisation after drought, then drought refuges should contribute strongly to assemblage composition within streams. If resilience traits drive recolonisation, macroinvertebrates emerging from refuges may disperse widely, colonising many streams. To determine whether the contribution of drought refuges to macroinvertebrate recolonisation in non-perennial streams was mostly local (within stream) or broader scale (across streams), we measured the association between the composition of invertebrate assemblages in different types of in-stream drought refuge and the assemblage composition of streams when flow resumed.
2. We sampled 16 streams of varying hydrological regime on the western side of the Victoria Range in the Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia. Drought refuges (perennial pools, dry sediment, damp sediment, seeps, patches of leaf litter, beneath stones) were identified and sampled during autumn. Most taxa were found in perennial pools; few taxa were found aestivating beneath stones or having desiccation-resistant stages in dry sediment. Perennial pools and perennially flowing reaches were the refuges that harboured the greatest diversity of macroinvertebrate taxa.
3. Streams were sampled again during spring. Assemblage composition of non-perennial reaches in spring was unrelated to composition in nearby refuges in the previous autumn. In contrast, assemblage composition in perennial reaches during spring was strongly correlated with composition during autumn. Therefore, drought refuges did not directly influence assemblage composition locally within non-perennial streams. Rather, both perennially flowing reaches and perennial pools acted as drought refuges across the broader landscape. Resilience traits are likely to drive recolonisation in these streams.
4. Monitoring of drought refuges in a particular stream will therefore not predict species composition when flow resumes. Drought refuges are likely to sustain biodiversity over larger spatial scales such as groups of streams or whole drainage networks. Consequently, stream networks will need to be managed as entities rather than as single waterways and the focus of drought refuge protection should be on perennial pools and reaches.