Temporal and Spatial Distribution Patterns of Larval Trichoptera in Madeiran Streams

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Temporal and spatial distribution patterns of lotic larval trichopteran assemblages in relation to environmental variables were investigated in Madeiran streams using multivariate analyses. TWINSPAN classification detected distinct faunal assemblages related to spatial factors between non-polluted high altitude sites and lower lying enriched sites where tolerant taxa were predominant but showed strong seasonal shifts in species composition and abundance. The 15 TWINSPAN end groups were grouped into five arbitrary clusters based upon the seasonal and spatial changes in the trichopteran assemblages detected by the analysis. Significant differences between environmental variables (distance from source, altitude, temperature, conductivity, alkalinity and nitrate) and the trichopteran assemblages (using trichopteran based metrics) of these clusters were confirmed by the Kruskal-Wallis test (H) and Dunn’s test. Chemical classification of samples within the clusters revealed a strong association between trichopteran assemblages and water quality. Canonical Correspondence Analysis and Monte Carlo global permutation tests also identified significant associations between the larval assemblages and physicochemical variables such as temperature and conductivity along a strong physical gradient (altitude, slope) and nitrate along a weaker seasonal gradient. Analysis of functional feeding group distribution patterns clearly showed that mid to high altitude indigenous woodland sites were trophically diverse whilst the lower reaches of the islands streams are trophically impoverished with strong seasonal shifts between two feeding groups of enrichment tolerant taxa. Trichopteran shredders are exclusive to indigenous woodland sites, indicating a limited distribution associated with land use, allochthonous input and habitat destruction. The results indicate that several ‘environmental filters’ operate at different levels upon the islands trichopteran fauna, producing temporally and spatially distinct ‘subsets’ of species best able to exploit conditions and resources at a given site or time, confounding the direct comparison of these insular systems with the findings of the River Continuum Concept, traditionally associated with unaffected continental lotic systems.

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