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Terrestrial invertebrates of dry river beds are not simply subsets of riparian assemblages

TitleTerrestrial invertebrates of dry river beds are not simply subsets of riparian assemblages
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSteward, AL, Marshall, JC, Sheldon, F, B., H, Choy, S, Bunn, SE, Tockner, K
JournalAquatic Sciences
Start Page551
Date Published11/2011
ISSN1015-1621 (Print)
Keywords Climate change,  Riparian zone, Community composition, Drought, Temporary river

Dry river beds are common worldwide and are rapidly increasing in extent due to the effects of water management and prolonged drought periods due to climate change. While attention has been given to the responses of aquatic invertebrates to drying rivers, few studies exist on the terrestrial invertebrates colonizing dry river beds. Dry river beds are physically harsh and they often differ substantially in substrate, topography, microclimate and inundation frequency from adjacent riparian zones. Given these differences, we predicted that dry river beds provide a unique habitat for terrestrial invertebrates, and that their assemblage composition differs from that in adjacent riparian zones. Dry river beds and riparian zones in Australia and Italy were sampled for terrestrial invertebrates with pitfall traps. Sites differed in substrate type, climate and flow regime. Dry river beds contained diverse invertebrate assemblages and their composition was consistently different from adjacent riparian zones, irrespective of substrate, climate or hydrology. Although some taxa were shared between dry river beds and riparian zones, 66 of 320 taxa occurred only in dry river beds. Differences were due to species turnover, rather than shifts in abundance, indicating that dry river bed assemblages are not simply subsets of riparian assemblages. Some spatial patterns in invertebrate assemblages were associated with environmental variables (irrespective of habitat type), but these associations were statistically weak. We suggest that dry river beds are unique habitats in their own right. We discuss potential human stressors and management issues regarding dry river beds and provide recommendations for future research.