Benthic and hyporheic invertebrate assemblages along a flow intermittence gradient: effects of duration of dry events


Thibault Datry, Cemagref, UR-MALY, Groupement de Lyon, 3 bis quai Chauveau, F-69336 Lyon Cedex 09, France.


1. A large proportion of the total river length on Earth comprises rivers that are temporary in nature. However, the effects of periodical dry events have received far less attention from ecologists than those of floods and low flows.

2. This study concomitantly examined the effects of flow intermittence on invertebrates from the streambed surface and from a depth of 30 cm in the hyporheic zone. Invertebrates were collected during 3 years in the Albarine River, France, before and after summer dry events from 18 sites (seven were perennial) distributed along a longitudinal flow intermittence gradient.

3. I predicted benthic and hyporheic density and taxonomic richness to decrease, and assemblage composition to shift from desiccation-sensitive to desiccation-resistant taxa with increased dry event duration. Second, I predicted benthic and hyporheic assemblages from sites that dried for longer periods to be nested subsets of assemblages from sites that dried for shorter periods. Last, I predicted a convergence in benthic and hyporheic assemblage composition with increasing duration of dry events, resulting from increased vertical migration of benthic taxa into the hyporheic sediments to cope with dry events.

4. Increased dry event duration in the Albarine River led to a decrease in both benthic and hyporheic density and taxonomic richness. Invertebrate assemblage composition shifted along the gradient of increasing flow intermittence, but broad taxonomic overlap between perennial and temporary reaches and nestedness patterns indicated that these shifts were because of the loss of taxa susceptible to drying rather than selection for desiccation-resistant specialists.

5. Assemblage composition between benthic and hyporheic invertebrates diverged with increasing dry event duration, suggesting that the hyporheic zone did not act as a refuge during dry events in this river.

6. Quantitative studies on the relationships between ecology and intermittence are still rare but are needed to predict the consequences of future changes in flow intermittence. The relationships found in this study should be tested across a wide range of temporary rivers to better evaluate the generality of these findings.