Spatial and seasonal distribution of invertebrates in Northern Apennine rheocrene springs

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Elisa BOTTAZZI *
Maria Cristina BRUNO
Valentina PIERI
Antonio DI SABATINO
Luana SILVERI
Mauro CAROLLI
Giampaolo ROSSETTI
(*) Corresponding Author:
Elisa BOTTAZZI | elisa.bottazzi@nemo.unipr.it

Abstract

Four perennial rheocrene springs located between 919 and 1252 m a.s.l. on substrata characterized by different lithologies were studied. Water samples and invertebrates were collected seasonally for one year. The crenic fauna was collected using three sampling techniques: moss washing, drift tubes and benthic traps. Each sampling technique was particularly efficient for collecting specific taxa typical of the different habitats (crenophilous crustaceans and crenoxenic benthic insects were dominant in benthic traps and moss; crenophilic, stygophilic and stygobiotic crustaceans in drift tubes). A total of 3,284 invertebrates belonging to 54 taxa were collected. Ostracoda, Harpacticoida, and Diptera were the most abundant taxa. Species assemblages collected at each spring, in each season, in traps and mosses, differed among springs, and, based on invertebrate assemblages, the ordination of the investigated springs did not correspond to that based on environmental parameters. Of the environmental variables only pH and temperature explained the diversity pattern. Assemblages collected from different habitats also differed: benthic traps collected mainly Chironomidae, Ostracoda, other Diptera, crenophilous Harpacticoida, and Gastropoda; in moss assemblages, the fauna was mostly represented by crenophilic Harpacticoida, Ostracoda, Plecoptera, Chironomidae. Finally, the groundwater assemblages, collected with drift tubes, were dominated by crenophilous Harpacticoida, Chironomidae and Plecoptera. Variation in number of taxa over time was observed in traps and moss samples, whereas drift tubes showed no seasonality. Meiofauna (i.e., permanent meiofauna, represented by Nematoda, Copepoda, Ostracoda, and Hydrachnidia, and temporary meiofauna, represented by early instars of insect larvae) dominated all habitats, probably because of constant flow and favourable habitats such as moss. The presence of mosses was a factor that increased the species diversity of the investigated springs; drift tubes allowed most of the stygobiotic taxa to be collected, although this technique did not necessarily increase the total number of taxa collected. In addition to the array of habitats, other factors, such as geology, might influence the structure of invertebrate communities. The diversity of the investigated springs was strictly dependent on the presence of different microhabitats and local environmental conditions.

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