Landscape composition as a determinant of diversity and functional feeding groups of aquatic macroinvertebrates in southern rivers of the Araucanía, Chile
Changes in land use which directly or indirectly affect freshwater fauna constitute one of the principal anthropic factors which have caused world biological diversity to disappear rapidly during recent decades. This fauna includes aquatic benthic macroinvertebrates, organisms presenting temporal and spatial variation due to a variety of factors, one of which is the diverse food resources available in the rivers. To assess the effect of anthropic activities on this fauna, the distribution, abundance and characterisation of the functional feeding groups of aquatic macroinvertebrates were analysed, together with the physical and chemical variables in the environments of four coastal river basins of southern south-central Chile. A total of 104 taxa of macroinvertebrates were recorded, the principal component of the community being the Diptera (26 taxa). The abundance and richness of taxa were greater in summer and lower in winter. The most abundant species belong to the order Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera. Macroinvertebrates were affected by different land use: stations with less anthropic activity and greater altitude had higher macroinvertebrates abundance, while the lowest abundance was found at the lowest stations. The functional feeding groups which were most abundant spatially and temporally were the collector-gatherers and the shredders. The physical and chemical water quality variables proved to be of exceptional quality in all the stations. These results suggest that policies governing changes in land use in central and southern Chile should take into account the dramatic alterations that these changes impose on the macroinvertebrates community. Policies for biodiversity conservation should therefore focus on these small but important organisms in the north Patagonian region of South America, which is a hotspot of world diversity.