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Anthropogenic land use within watersheds has substantial effects on aquatic habitats and biological communities. From September 2006 to December 2008, we investigated the effects of land use on benthic macroinvertebrate communities by comparing Song Stream and Odae Stream, two adjacent mountain streams in Korea whose watersheds have different land use patterns. Song Stream is significantly disturbed by agricultural activities in the watershed, whereas Odae Stream is relatively undisturbed and is surrounded by a well-conserved forest area. Song Stream had significantly higher levels of all nutrients and sediment-related factors due to the adjacent agricultural area. As a result, Song Stream had markedly lower species community indices, such as taxa richness and abundance. In Song Stream, macroinvertebrate scrapers and predators were most adversely affected, whereas collector-gatherers became a dominant group. Based on correlation and multivariate analyses, total dissolved solids had the strongest negative relationship with macroinvertebrate assemblages, followed by electrical conductivity, total nitrogen, and pH. The proportion of cobble in stream substrate was positively related to the richness and abundance of macroinvertebrates. Our results indicate that disturbances caused by agricultural land use, particularly sand deposition, had significant adverse effects on macroinvertebrate habitats and on the biotic integrity of benthic macroinvertebrate communities.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are considered as a representative taxon that indicates the ecological status of freshwater ecosystems. Numerous indices derived from community data have been proposed to estimate either biological water quality or ecosystem health. In this study, metrics based on benthic macroinvertebrates at the family level were screened using ecological informatics to provide a multi-metric measurement that would be suitable for presenting ecological integrity across different levels of environmental impact. Benthic macroinvertebrates were collected at a total of 720 sample sites from river basins and streams in Korea in 2009. Based on four categories of community status (i.e., diversity, richness, tolerance, and composition), 37 metrics were selected as initial candidates according to the literature. The candidate metrics were evaluated according to parameters including discriminatory power, redundancy, and responsiveness to stressors. Self-organizing map was utilized to assist the screening procedure by providing ordination, clustering, and visualization of metric and environmental data. Six metrics were finally selected as a multi-metric and were compared with conventional indicators for presenting the ecological integrity of streams.
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